Word to the Wise: Don’t fall victim to bogus tech support calls

July 7, 2014 

Many residents have reported to your Better Business Bureau that they have received a telephone call from someone claiming to be with tech support from well-known software companies such as Microsoft. Some claim to be with a federal law enforcement agency, such as the FBI.

The scammers may know your name and other personal information, which they get from publicly available phone directories. They might even guess what computer operating system you are using.

The caller tells you that your computer is sending error messages and they’ve detected a virus on it. He says that only a tech support employee can remove the virus, but first you must grant him access to your machine. If you give the OK, the caller will run a scan of your files and point out how the virus has infected the computer. The scammer then offers to remove the virus -- for a fee. Of course they need your credit card information first.

You might think that this is another form of telephone fraud designed to get your credit card information, but there are actually two twists. It is possible that if you allow the caller to access files on your computer, they can access banking information by using your computer to log into your banking programs.

In addition, they could download spyware onto your computer, which could allow them to monitor your keystrokes. Many people reporting this crime indicated that if they allowed remote access to their computers, whether they had paid for the virus to be removed or not, they had difficulties with their computers afterwards. Some said their computer would not turn on or that certain files were inaccessible. Some victims even reported that computer technicians confirmed that software had been installed.

What to do if “tech support” calls?

• Be wary of answering calls from unknown numbers. Instead, let the call go to voicemail.

• Don’t rely on caller ID; scammers have the ability to spoof their caller ID numbers to appear legitimate.

• Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer and you initiated the support.

• Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from tech support.

• If a caller notifies you that he or she has detected a virus or other threat to your computer, hang up.

• Take the caller’s information down and report it to the BBB, local authorities or the Federal Trade Commission.

If you have allowed a caller to access your computer:

• Change the passwords for your computer, email and online banking and credit card accounts.

• Be sure to update your antivirus software and run a virus scan.

• Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report if you shared personal and banking information with the scammer or if you suspect that malware was installed.

• Find a trustworthy computer repair company to ensure that all malware has been removed.

For more consumer tips, visit bbb.org.

Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River area. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at 478-742-7999, www.bbb.org or by emailing info@centralgeorgia.bbb.org.

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