What are Technical Support Scams? Prevent Tech Support Scam
The curious case of Bishop Mittal, an Indian-origin tech support owner and scammer, involved in the defrauding of hundreds of victims across the US and India is every tech scam’s underline story. He and his associates were found guilty of swindling millions under the pretext of tech support issues to induce them to pay for them in order to get it resolved occupied headlines in 2019.
Bishop Mittal, 26 would rope in vulnerable people by placing pop-up ads on their computers and convince them of serious concerns, only to have them pay for fake issues. His associates and co-conspirators confirmed buying malicious pop-up adware from publishers across the globe. They would place these fake pop-ups on the victim’s computers deliberately. When the victims would call the technical support centre for resolving the issue, the conspirators would gain remote access to their computers. Once they had remote access to the computer, the fraudsters would fabricate a fictitious cause of computer technical fault, including the presence of a virus or malware. They would then induce the victims into paying for malware clean up or other associated services.
The conspirators would charge the victims somewhere around $200 to $2400, in order to make their system operable, and free from fake malware or virus. This tech scam went on for a long time, affecting hundreds of people and defrauding them for approximately $3 million.
Technical support scams have become a global industry-wide problem, where fraudsters deploy tactics that scare and trick the victim into giving in to their false claims, only to have them defrauded. They provide unnecessary technical support that is the creation of their scam, including fixing the software, system or issues that do not exist. The sole purpose of these tactics is to either scam you of money or place malware in your device through remote access and steal your confidential information.
India specifically has become a breeding ground for both fraudsters and victims, with over 69% of scam encounter rate in 2020 itself, according to a report by Microsoft. While 7 out of 10 consumers in India encountered technical support scams in 2020, a Microsoft survey highlighted that Millennials and males were most susceptible to losing money from such tech scams.
While these technical scammers are highly sophisticated and adept at what they do, how does the general public become aware and protect themselves from these cutting-edge fraudulent acts?
The best solution would be to gain knowledge on how the technical support scam works and find ways to keep yourself away from any contact. Let us guide you through a combed strategy for securing your system, money and the stress they bring.
How do tech support scams work?
Fraudsters might call you directly on your phone, pretend to be technical representatives and assist you on a computer/laptop issue. They might even coax the caller ID in order to enable a legitimate tech support number display from a genuine company. These scammers would then either ask you to install their applications or click on the link they provide to gain remote access to your system. When they gain remote access to your computer, these fraudsters misconstrue general & normal messages as prospective technical problems.
Fraudsters would initiate a virtual contact with your system by the display of fake error messages or popups on your most visited websites, with contact support numbers with the prospect of enticing you to interact with them. They might also lock your browser while displaying messages and pop-ups that remain on your screen incessantly. These fraudulent pop-ups are aimed at frightening you into giving your spoofed technical support hotline. Once you call the fake tech support, these scammers trick you into paying upfront for the fake technical issue or stealing your personal data.
How to protect yourself from a technical support scam?
The simplest way you can spot a technical support scam is by being aware of the signs of common giveaways that reflect on the popups or messages not being legitimate. Moreover, there are some pointers to keep handy, just in case you encounter a technical support scam.
- Genuine software companies such as Microsoft and Apple do not send unsolicited emails, pop up messages or phone calls, requesting your personal details. They do not reach out to you for providing technical support to fix your laptop or computer. In simple words, if you won’t ask Microsoft or Apple for advice at their designated email id and phone number, they won’t offer technical support.
- If you call a software company’s technical support, they would not ask you to open event viewer or settings to look for error messages.
- Software companies never ask for payments in the form of gift cards or cryptocurrency such as bitcoins.
While you look for these small yet vital elements, be sure to stay vigilant by adopting the following factors:
- If, in case you initiate a call with a technical support scammer, they might ask you to either download their software or pay upfront. In the former case, these scammers are simply seeking a way into your system through remote access. So, BEWARE! Never install an app or software from suspicious sources, which is potentially dangerous for your confidential data and leads to a virus penetration into your system.
- Look for the email address of the technical support you have interacted with. The easy way to spot a scammer is to check their “from” address, which might look legitimate, however, clicking on it would reveal their actual address.
- Run a security scan as a preventive measure to identify and wipe out any malware in your system.
While it is important to identify if you are being scammed, sometimes you may not be able to differentiate between fraud or genuine calls. In such cases, it is worthwhile to have Finlock’s premium plan. It provides you with a cyber insurance cover of up to Rs. 5 lakh. Besides this, the Finlock phishing alert app can protect you from downloading apps that may compromise your privacy or accessing malicious web links.
These scammers only have control of your system as long as you allow them to defraud you through the known and sometimes masquerading tricks. While such scammers have a specific slab of victims who can easily fall prey to their tricks, such as the elderly, awareness of these frauds can keep your data and money safe, to a good extent.
The best way people can protect themselves from technical scams is by being wary of the process in which way these scammers are targeting victims. Moreover, staying vigilant of unsolicited contacts from tech companies, especially suspicious, purported employees should be on your priority list.