Tech support scams (also known as computer repair scams) are most often executed in one of two ways – through unsolicited phone calls or from pop-up warnings on computers. Typically, the message will advise that there has been a virus or problem associated with your device that requires immediate action to resolve it. Don’t buy into these false claims; these fake “technicians” are out to steal your money and personal information, not fix your device.

How do they happen?

PHONE CALLS

Tech Support imposters (fraudsters) may call and pretend to be a computer support technician from a well-known company you may recognize and trust, such as Apple or Microsoft. They will say they have found a problem with your computer and ask you to give them remote access to your device while they “run a diagnostic test to fix the issue”. 

If software is installed as a result of your interactions with the fraudster, it could provide you with false reports stating that everything is working properly and that the viruses have been removed. Unbeknownst to you, the installed software can be used to track what you access on your computer and used to gather information about you in order to perpetrate identity theft. It may also be used to download malicious software (also known as malware) to your computer.

If you receive a phone call that you aren’t expecting from someone who claims there is a problem with your computer, hang up.

If you don’t hang up, here’s what could happen next:

Once you login and the Tech Support imposter has access to your computer, they can install malware so they can steal your login credentials to websites you frequent such as your financial institutions, utilities, tax sites, email, etc. Your login credentials provide access to valuable information that fraudsters can use to steal both your funds and your identity.

Tech Support imposters usually will demand payment to fix the nonexistent ‘‘issue" and often require payment for their "services" via gift cards, or by using a person to person transfer app (like Venmo, Zelle etc.) or by wiring money.  Fraudsters prefer these methods of payment as it delivers your money into the fraudster’s hands almost instantly.

POP-UP MESSAGES, LINKS IN EMAIL MESSAGES

Fraudsters will also try to lure you in with a pop-up window or notification that appears on your computer screen or mobile device disguising themselves as agents from well-known companies.  To appear legitimate they will steal or fake the well -known company’s name, logo and branding.

Fraudsters usually lure victims in one of two ways: (1) by using scare tactics such as presenting alarming error messages on your screen that warn of security issues on your computer; or (2) by using enticements such as notifying you that you have won a prize or the lottery. The messages require you to click on a link, install a program or application, or call a phone number to get help or redeem the prize.

If you receive an unsolicited call or pop-up on your computer, do not provide any information. Do not click on links provided in emails.  Instead, update your computer’s existing security software and run a scan, and schedule both the updates and scans to automatically run periodically. If you continue to experience similar pop-up messages, turn the computer off and disconnect it from the internet until you or a trusted computer repair company are able to resolve your computer of potential virus infection.

To combat these Tech Support scams, be aware of the following Red Flags

After you receive an unsolicited phone call, email or warning pop up message on your computer, the following red flags can help to alert you that the advisory is not legitimate.

1.

You receive an unsolicited phone call, text message, or email from someone claiming to be from a company’s ‘Tech Support’, ‘Help Desk’, ‘IT Department’ or similar. Legitimate tech support companies will never initiate contact over the phone, text message, or personal emails.

2.

You receive an alarming pop-up message on your laptop warning you about a major security issue with your computer and instructing you to call a listed phone number. Do not call any unknown phone numbers. Similarly, do not answer any calls you do not recognize. Even if the caller ID appears to be from a company you know, fraudsters can spoof the caller ID making their calls appear to originate from a legitimate company.

3.

You are notified that a Virus Protection software must be installed to your computer to prevent (or repair) any issues. First, think about how this message was delivered to you. If you received it from an unknown email address or in a pop-up while on your computer, it is likely this is a scam. Is it from a reputable program you are a customer of or paid for previously? Always take an extra minute to think about how the information was delivered.

4.

You receive a message that requests you to click a link or visit a website to install a program on your computer that will repair the issues. These programs will not fix your computer and instead, will download malware to your device. Legitimate computer security companies do not advertise via unsolicited notifications.

5.

You receive a call requesting remote access to fix a problem on your computer. Never give anyone remote access to your computer. This gives them complete control over anything you access online.

6.

You are asked to share your Digital Banking credentials or to provide your account numbers as a payment method. Your Digital Banking credentials should never to be shared with anyone for any reason. Giving someone your username and password provides a fraudster with direct access to your money.

7. You are asked to pay for these “services” with a gift card, Paypal transfer, wire transfer, or through an application like Venmo, Zelle, or Cash App. Legitimate companies will never accept any of these payments methods or channels. If they insist they do, it is likely a scam.
 
How can you protect yourself?
  • If you think there may be a problem with your computer, update your computer’s security software and run a scan.
  • If you need help fixing a problem, go to so someone you know and trust. Many software companies offer support online or by phone. Stores that sell computer equipment also offer technical support in person.
  • If you believe that your login credentials have been compromised, contact your financial institution or other service provider immediately.
  • If you think a fraudster has accessed your personal information, such as social security number or date of birth, it is recommended to put a fraud alert on your credit reports with the Credit Bureaus to help safeguard your information.
  • If you think a fraudster has accessed your usernames and passwords for various sites you have used, it is recommended that you change your passwords, update your information and add additional security controls if available.
  • If you believe that your identity has been stolen, file a report online at https://www.identitytheft.gov and contact your financial institution immediately.
  • If you have questions or have already received a similar call and you accessed Digital Banking as a part of the computer repair, please contact us at (202) 212-6400.

RESOURCES

If a Tech Support fraudster contacts you or you have been a victim of this type of scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission. When you report a scam, the FTC can use the information to build a case against the fraudster and may be able to recover any lost funds on your behalf.