Every day, millions of people get scam phone calls. In the U.S. alone there are more than 86 million scam calls each month.
Consumer phone scammers often use cheap robocalling services; automatic dialers that make thousands of phone calls every minute for a low cost. They hope to catch someone who is not aware of the system or hasn’t heard of phone scams. A recorded message will say you qualify for a special program to lower your credit card interest rate or that something is wrong with your computer. When you press a number to learn more, the scam kicks in. The unfortunate victims are often elderly people, recent immigrants, and young college students.
‘We have detected a virus’
The most popular type of phone scam is the bogus tech support claim. The one that has been around for a few years (also read Don’t be fooled by support scams) involves a caller claiming they are a computer technician employed by Microsoft, McAfee, or even, Avast. They say they have detected a problem, commonly a virus or malware, on your computer and can fix it for a fee – sometimes as high as $450.
Once the frightened consumer agrees, the phone scammer has them download software for remote access. You can imagine what changes a crook can make to computer settings which allows them access later.
Other tactics tech support scammers take include:
- Enroll their victim in a bogus computer maintenance program
- Collect credit card information to bill for services
- Install malware that can steal personally identifiable information like passwords and account numbers
‘Your computer is damaged’
Another type of tech support scam begins with a pop-up message designed to scare the user which says, “Your computer is damaged.” These scams usually occur after the computer user downloads software that includes a toolbar, an unwanted add-on, or adware. When the user clicks the pop-up to learn more, they are redirected to a website with instructions to call a number to activate or register the bogus software. From there the scam looks similar to the previous technical support scam in which they try to sell other products or services.
How to protect yourself from tech support scams
Be cautious when installing free software. Some programs include additional software that is bundled with the regular download. Make sure you uncheck any boxes for additional software installations.
Activate Avast ‘Potentially Unwanted Programs’ (PUPs) detection. PUPs include search bars, intrusive adware, and browser extensions that Avast does not detect by default. To enable this detection open the Avast program and go to Settings. Click Customize next to Web Shield. Go to Sensitivity and put a check mark beside PUP and suspicious files.
Do not give control of your computer to a person that calls out of the blue claiming to be from tech support. If it is a real technical support person, then they will schedule a time to call you.
Never share your credit card information or passwords with someone who calls you claiming to be from technical support.
Make sure your antivirus software is up-to-date and running, and apply security patches and updates to your browser and software.