Almost every large business offers customers a support line to call for help. Locked out of your account? Broken computer? Smartphone won’t switch on? Help is typically just a phone call or a chat window away.
However, scammers have taken notice and developed a crafty con around this. They create fake customer support numbers and post them online. When frustrated customers call, scammers fool them into granting access to their devices or purchasing unrelated products and services.
How the Scam Works:
You are having trouble with your account or product. It could be anything ranging from a tech gadget to an online shopping account. You search online for customer support and find a phone number that seems legitimate. Often, it will be a toll-free number (1-888 or 1-844 number). When you call, a “customer service representative” answers and offers to assist you with your account.
In one version of this scam, the person will give you some bad news: your account has been hacked. Since you have seen no evidence of being hacked prior to your call, the “representative” says they can prove your account was hacked if you grant them remote access to your computer. If you give them access, you make yourself extremely vulnerable to identity theft. Con artists can install malware that records passwords or hunts for personal information, such as bank account numbers.
According to reports to BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/ScamTracker), many people have been faced with a second version of this scam. The supposed representative attempts to sell the customer some kind of vaguely related product or service, such as computer security software or printer drivers. The product or service they offer does nothing to fix your problem, despite it being quite expensive. Victims report paying between $200 and $900.
Protect yourself from tech support scams:
- Be careful when searching for support phone numbers: Unfortunately, scammers love to post phony customer support numbers online. This means you need to use extra caution when you get in touch with customer service. Double check the URL on the website when looking up a number, or look for a tech support number on your bill or online account.
- Never give a stranger remote access: It is never a good idea to grant someone remote access to your computer. Scammers can install malware on your computer that searches for your passwords or other personal information.
- Don’t pay for services or products you aren’t sure you need. Use your good judgment. If a product or service doesn’t make sense to you, don’t authorize a payment.
For More Information:
See BBB.org/techsupportscam for more advice on how to avoid tech support scams.
For more tips on how to avoid scams, check out BBB.org/scamtips. In addition, if you’ve fallen victim to this type of scam, you can help others avoid being scammed by filing a report BBB.org/scamtracker.
If you have been the victim of identity theft, go to identitytheft.gov for a personalized recovery plan from the Federal Trade Commission.
News release courtesy of the Better Business Bureau