Phone scammers who falsely promise to make people’s computers more secure have added some new tricks. In the basic scam, someone calls you and claims to work for a well-known tech company, such as Microsoft…warns that your computer has been infected by a dangerous virus or other malware…and offers to help remove it. But if you cooperate by following the caller’s instructions or giving him/her remote access to your computer, the caller instead remotely installs malware that will spy on your computer…steal your personal information…make charges to your credit card…and/or cause other problems.
The latest twists…
Instead of calling you, the scammers trick you into calling them. To get victims to call, scammers might take out ads on websites of legitimate technology companies. The ads simply list an 800 number and words such as “tech support” or “if you need assistance,” creating the impression that this is the number to call if you need help with the legit tech company’s site or products.
A victim searching for computer-security products or services online might end up on the scammer’s website or another site that offers security software, which the victim then downloads. The software informs the victim that the computer has major malware problems and advises the victim to call “tech support.” A scammer at that number tries to sell you computer-security services you do not need. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) obtained court orders temporarily shutting down two companies accused of scamming consumers out of $120 million with this ploy.
The scammer promises a refund. The scammer claims to be calling to make sure you are satisfied with your recently purchased computer-security software. If you say that you did not make such a purchase despite the supposed charge or that you’re not satisfied with security software you did purchase, the scammer offers a refund—but obtains your credit card or bank account number to charge you money instead.