Computer Tech Support Scam – Don’t Fall For It!

August 1, 2019

In June and July 2019, InterBank has had numerous customers fall victim to a “Computer Tech Support Scam” and in some cases our customers have lost hundreds or thousands of dollars. More information regarding Tech Support Scams from the FTC is shown below:

The basic scam involves con artists trying to gain the victims’ trust by pretending to be associated with a well-known technology company, such as Microsoft, Apple, or Dell. They then falsely claim that the victims’ computers have been infected with a virus.

Con artists convince victims to give them remote access to their computers, personal information, and debit card and bank account number so that victims can be “billed” for fraudulent services to fix the virus. In a related scam, individuals searching the internet may see a pop-up window on their computer instructing them to contact a tech-support agent. Sometimes, scammers have used the pop-up window to hack into victims’ computers, lock them out, and require victims to pay a ransom to regain control of their computers.

Below are several of the most common variations of this scam:

Scammers Contact Victims. In the most prevalent variation of this scam, con artists randomly call potential victims and offer to clean their computers and/or sell them a long-term or technical support “service.” The con artists usually direct the victims’ computers to display benign error messages that appear on every computer to convince victims that their computers are malfunctioning. Scammers generally charge victims between $150 and $800 and may install free programs or trial versions of antivirus programs to give the illusion that they are repairing victims’ computers. If victims express concern about the price, the con artists will often entice victims to pay by offering a “senior citizen discount.”

Victims Unknowingly Contact Scammers. Some consumers unknowingly call a fraudulent tech support number after viewing the phone number online. Consumers who search for tech support online may see the number for the scammer at the top of their “sponsored results.” The FTC found that a network of scammers paid Google more than one million dollars since 2010 for advertisements for certain key search terms.62 Some key search terms included: “virus removal,” “how to get rid of a computer virus,” “McAfee Customer Support,” and “Norton Support.” These search terms are cleverly chosen to confuse the consumer into thinking the fraudsters are associated with well-known companies. Other Fraudsters use pop-up messages on consumers’ computer screens that direct potential victims to call them.

Fraudulent Refund. Scammers contact victims stating that they are owed a refund for prior services. The scammers generally convince victims to provide them with access to their computers to process an online wire transfer. Instead of refunding the money, however, the fraudsters use the victims’ account information to charge consumers.

Fake Transfer. Victims give their online banking login information to the scammer and the scammer initiates a transfer between accounts – then informs the victim they have received a credit in error and asks them to return the funds by initiating a wire transfer, debit card transaction, etc.

Ransomware. Scammers use malware or spyware to infect victims’ computers with a virus or encrypt the computers so they cannot be used until a fee is paid. If victims refuse to pay, scammers will render the computer useless, prompting the appearance of a blue screen that can only be removed with a password known by the scammers. The FTC has received reports that scammers sometimes admit to victims that it is a scam and refuse to unlock the victims’ computers unless a “ransom” payment is made.

Tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help consumers avoid becoming a victim of a computer-based scam:

Do not give control of your computer to a third party that calls you out of the blue.

Do not rely on caller ID to authenticate a caller. Criminals spoof caller ID numbers. They may appear to be calling from a legitimate company or a local number when they are not even in the same country as you.

If you want to contact tech support, look for a company’s contact information on its software package or on your receipt. Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone who calls and claims to be from tech support.

If a caller pressures you to buy a computer security product or says there is a subscription fee associated with the call, hang up.

If you’re concerned about your computer, call your security software company directly and ask for help.

Make sure you have updated all of your computer’s anti-virus software, firewalls, and popup blockers.

At InterBank, we take the safeguarding of your information seriously and encourage you to take steps in protecting your personal information.

If you have any questions or notice any unauthorized or suspicious activity on your account, contact your local InterBank branch immediately.

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