As technology expands, so does our fear that something is breaking in our technology. Maybe it’s an error inside the machine, a virus or someone stealing information, but it’s all pretty scary to think about. Those thoughts can be used against us. Scammers will take advantage of your fear of losing your technology to access your computer.
This type of fraud is called tech support scams. These are often pretty convincing, but with the right knowledge and a little bit of caution, you can avoid them. Here are some tips to keep you safe:
- Don’t give control of your computer to a third party who calls you out of the blue.
- Do not rely on caller ID alone 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’re not even in the same country as you.
- Online search results might not be the best way to find technical support or get a company’s contact information. Scammers sometimes place online ads to convince you to call them. They pay to boost their ranking in search results so their websites and phone numbers appear above those of legitimate companies. If you want tech support, look for a company’s contact information on their 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.
- Never give your password on the phone. No legitimate organization calls you and asks for your password.
- Put your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry, and then report illegal sales calls.
If You’ve Responded to a Scam
If you think you might have downloaded malware from a scam site or allowed a cybercriminal to access your computer, don’t panic. Instead:
- Get rid of malware. Update or download legitimate security software and scan your computer. Delete anything it identifies as a problem.
- Change any passwords that you gave out. If you use these passwords for other accounts, change those accounts, too.
- If you paid for bogus services with a credit card, call your credit card provider and ask to reverse the charges. Check your statements for any other charges you didn’t make, and ask to reverse those, too.
If you believe that someone may have accessed your personal or financial information, visit the FTC’s identity theft website. You can minimize your risk of further damage and repair any problems already in place.