For every anti-virus, computer scan, and honest computer friend who helps keep your system clear of malware, there are plenty of scammers who are working tirelessly around the clock to be as creative as possible in finding ways to steal your personal information.
Recently, research firms who root out malware have uncovered a new tech support scam which targets smartphones and tablets – and their users’ personal information.
So how exactly do these scams work?
Everyone knows to look out for telemarketers when you answer the phone, but what about tech support? Scammers will often call your home under the guise of responding to a malware detection on one of your systems. These calls are as unsolicited as they are creative, and plenty of consumer protection groups, security companies, and government agencies have provided warnings about these people.
If you’re wondering how these scammers get their foot in your proverbial door, it’s through the use of jargon. Technological terms can make a caller claiming to be tech support sound reputable and gain your trust. After gaining your trust, these scammers ask you to download and install programs on your computer which provide remote access to your system.
Once their programs are on your computer, they’ll open them in an effort to prove to you that something is very wrong with your operating system. From there it’s just a matter of selling you superfluous and useless security software. Or they could just install malware on your system with cookies that can track your movements to target your personal information, including sensitive knowledge of your credit cards.
In the past, scammers have primarily focused on Windows and Mac products, like the ones found on your computer at home or work. But their movement has now expanded out to mobile systems like Android for your phone.
In order to get users to invest in their phony products, scammers host both online ads and cold-calling techniques to reach out to their potential victims. There have been reports of users who think that their phone is running slow searching for tech-support only to be led through a series of hoops which end up being an obvious tech scam.
One such scam involves the so-called tech-support asking the user to hook their phone to the computer and install remote access software. The scammer can then check the data and claim that malware on the computer is affecting the phone through the wifi being accessed across the network.
From there the scammer will have the user download a legitimate-sounding file to their phone, check for a phony infection, and claim the user will have to pay some sort of contract of a few of hundreds of dollars to “fix” their perfectly functional equipment.
Fortunately, there are a few warning signs to avoid if you suspect you may be speaking with a scammer.
If the scammer, for instance, asks you to download a file name for Windows software onto your Android phone, don’t go any further. Scammers often offer legitimate-sounding downloads for your phone, so be sure to pay close attention to the file type. If your mobile device doesn’t support those kinds of files then you’re being scammed.
FTC Damage Control
The FTC has had to offer a series of warnings about a new type of scam which happened in the wake of smartphone and tablet malware implementation. Unfortunately, there are now also scammers who call users and offer refunds for “unsatisfactory” tech-support. This scam is more typical in that they’ll ask for your bank account information so that they can “deposit the refund.” Of course you’ll never see a penny of any supposed-refund, so follow the FTC warning on this one.
If you do suspect a scammer, report the activity right away. Not only will your swift action help save your personal information, it will also keep other consumers out of trouble.
Follow the advice found in this article about how to report scam phone calls. Make special note of the agencies established to accept a report for scam phone calls:
• Internet Crime Complaint Center
• Federal Trade Commission
• Attorney General
• Do Not Call Registry
Because of the prevalence of tech scams, it’s more important than ever to listen for any warning signs of an impending cheat. Remember: never give your bank account information to a company you don’t know, no matter how tempting their offer is. And watch your downloads carefully, especially on your smartphone or tablet.
Greg Hall works for eConsumerServices, a consumer protection agency. He is always on the lookout for new scams – especially those that take advantage of unique technology.