One of the things that can immediately strike fear into the heart of a computer user is when they hear that something might be wrong with their PC. Thoughts of losing all data or having a virus run wild start to evolve into a panic and an urgent desire to fix whatever’s wrong right away.
This is exactly the reaction that scammers who pose as “helpful remote support” are going for. These scams trick users into thinking something is wrong with their computer and to accept an immediate request for a remote connection.
This can then result in identity theft, or ransomware, or malware being planted on your device, resulting in the need for REAL computer support. Or a hacker may create a silent connection that allows them to track keystrokes and steal data from you for months.
According to the FTC, in 2018 people lost $55 million to tech support scams, and the median individual loss was $400.
Remote scams usually materialize in three different ways:
- Phishing Phone Calls: The user receives an unsolicited call from someone purporting to be Microsoft or Apple support, explaining that they’ve “found a problem” with your device and asking for remote access to fix the issue.
- Browser Pop-up Warnings: If you happen to visit the wrong site or click the wrong ad, you can end up with a fake pop-up warning that might look like it’s coming from a trusted anti-virus or computer manufacturer. The warning includes a number for you to call for immediate “assistance.”
- Malicious Search Results: Scammers may even pay for search ads for keywords related to IT and computer support. Hoping you’ll click on their ad and call. From there they may offer an immediate remote session.
How to Keep from Becoming a Victim of a Remote Support Scam
1. Hang Up On Unsolicited Tech Support Calls
Unfortunately, spam and phishing calls to both landlines and mobile phones are common. It’s gotten so that some people don’t answer a call unless the caller is already in their contacts.
If you get an unsolicited call regarding computer tech support, hang up immediately. If you’re worried about your PC, look up a trusted local IT provider to contact.
2. Quit Out of the Browser Using Task Manager
Some pop-ups can be scary for a user because they’re designed to take over your browser and not let you click out of them. This causes a person to think something might really be wrong with their computer.
You can use the task manager to force quit any applications, then reopen your browser, avoiding the site that caused the popup to happen.
Get to Task Manager:
- Windows: CTRL + ALT + Delete
- Mac: Option + Command + Esc
3. Get IT Security Training About This Scam (and Others)
Educating yourself or your team about these types of internet scams goes a long way to avoiding becoming a victim.
Magnify247.com offers a full Breach Prevention and Compliance Platform that includes unlimited training for cybersecurity, along with Dark Web monitoring and a cybersecurity assessment.
This training includes both team and individual training that can be done conveniently online anytime.
4. Sign Up for Dark Web Monitoring
Another important service offered in our Breach Prevention and Compliance Platform is Dark Web monitoring. If a scammer has your phone number, it might be due to a breach of your personal information.
Signing up for Dark Web monitoring can help you keep these types of scams at bay by being aware immediately if any of your information may have been compromised.
5. Keep Your Computers Updated Regularly
Keeping your computers and devices updated regularly with OS and software updated helps keep out all types of online threats, including those that come through remote support scams.
6. Have a Cybersecurity Assessment Done
Are you worried that a remote connection that you or someone else may initiate leaves your network vulnerable? You can find out exactly how strong your network is and identify any weak spots by having a trusted local IT pro do a cybersecurity assessment.
7. Go to a Trusted IT Partner First
When a potential computer problem leaves you in a panic due to a pop-up, it can be tempting to call the number on the screen. Especially if the scammer has spoofed the look of a legitimate company, like Microsoft.
Stop and contact a local trusted IT partner in your area first. Don’t connect with that unknown company on the popup. If anything is truly wrong, a trusted IT professional will let you know and you won’t get scammed.
8. Ask for the Caller’s Information to Check Them Out Online
If you’ve picked up a call from a remote support scammer and don’t feel comfortable just hanging up, then you can ask them for information about their company so you can check it out first, after hanging up, and before taking any action.
When you start asking details such as company name, company location, company website address, and other identifiers, the other party will most likely hang up, revealing it’s a scam.
9. Use a DNS Filter to Block Malicious Sites
A DNS filter blocks malicious websites and can keep you or an employee from accidentally visiting a malicious site that generates fake tech support pop-ups.
10. Use a Pop-up Blocker
Using a pop-up blocker can also help you keep those scam support pop-ups from attacking your browsing session. They’re designed to stop ads and multiple other types of unsolicited pop-ups.
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