Beware of Computer Repair Scams
March 7, 2018
Computer repair and tech support scams can trap consumers into revealing personal information or paying for phony assistance with their digital devices.
Many Ohioans have reported a common variation of the scam – receiving unexpected telephone calls from con artists pretending to be affiliated with Microsoft, Windows, or a legitimate-sounding tech support or anti-virus software company.
In this scam, the caller claims the consumer’s computer has been infected by a virus or other malicious software. The caller attempts to convince the consumer to pay to have the “problem” fixed. Ultimately, the scammers request remote access into the consumer’s computer, supposedly to install antivirus software to resolve the issues. (Remote access allows someone to gain access to a computer through the Internet and free downloadable software.)
Consumers who fall for this scam face at least two potential problems. First, they likely have provided their credit card information to the scammer and paid for an unnecessary or worthless service. Second, by allowing remote access into their computer, they may have compromised any personal information stored on their device and opened the door to malware being loaded onto their computer by the con artist.
While the scams often begin with a phone call, con artists also use other methods to try to dupe Ohioans into falling for a computer repair or tech support scam.
In some cases, consumers receive warning messages on their computers stating they have a virus or other serious problem. The message often looks official and includes a telephone number to call for tech support. Upon calling, the consumer is persuaded to let the scammer “fix” the issues for a price, often hundreds of dollars.
Other consumers have searched online for computer help and have ended up contacting a scammer who had placed a legitimate-looking advertisement designed to lure unsuspecting consumers. They pretend to offer computer repair services, but they never provide any real help. Instead they work to gain access to consumers’ money or personal information.
Follow these tips to help steer clear of potential computer repair and tech support scams:
- Guard your personal information. If you receive an unexpected computer repair call, never provide personal information, allow the caller to access your device, or purchase software the caller may be selling. The best course of action is to hang up the phone immediately.
- Beware of pop-up messages. Know that scammers may use scare tactics such as full-screen warning messages or pop-up advertisements cleverly disguised as official-looking virus warnings. Never click on suspicious links or pop-up advertisements. Do not contact toll-free numbers contained in these messages or ads.
- Know where to find real help. To find legitimate computer repair help, look through the tech support information found with your security or antivirus software package, contact your Internet Service Provider, or locate documentation from your computer manufacturer. You may want to talk to friends and family for referrals and find out if a local computer repair service is available in your area.
- Dispute unauthorized charges. If you have used your credit card to pay a scam artist, contact your credit card company right away to have the charges reversed and your accounts protected.
- Beware of phony refund offers. Scam victims should be extremely cautious of any telephone calls claiming to offer a refund, even if the offer comes months after the initial scam. The supposed refund may simply be another scam, where a con artist pretends to offer compensation, asks for the consumer’s personal information (such as credit card or bank account number), and then makes unauthorized withdrawals from the consumer’s account.