Tech support scam dangers and how to avoid

Scammers often prey on unsuspecting people by posing as trustworthy organizations. Tech support scams are prime examples of this tactic. These scammers pose as Microsoft support agents or representatives of other official-sounding organizations. The scammers try to gain your confidence so they can gain remote access to your computer to allegedly fix the problem. But, in reality, they only steal your money and harvest your personal information.

This is how the scam typically works: The scammer cold calls you and claims a virus has been detected on your computer and needs to be dealt with immediately. The scammer offers to fix it for a fee. The scammer asks for your credit card number, as well as additional personal information, such as your Social Security number, passwords, etc. He or she may also install malware or a virus onto your computer when you provide remote access to your device. The end result: The scammer steals your identity and begins to empty your bank accounts, charge items to your credit card, etc.

Other scammers strike via pop-up warnings claiming your device has been hacked. The pop-up gives a tech support phone number. When you call the number, the scammer requires money to solve the problem. People also report being locked out of their devices (blue screen of death on the screen). A phone number is offered with instructions on how to unlock the device, but the phone number leads to a scam artist.

Your BBB offers the following tips to protect yourself from these scams:

• Hang up on unsolicited, third party calls claiming you have a computer problem.

• Never provide personal information or passwords to unfamiliar people or companies.

• Do not rely on caller ID to authenticate a caller. Scammers can make any number or name appear on a caller ID, even if they are out of the country.

• Don’t enroll in worthless computer maintenance or warranty programs scammers offer. Take time to research products.

• Protect your computer by using antivirus software and a firewall from a reputable company. Update software regularly. The updates protect against the constantly evolving viruses and system vulnerabilities.

• Enable pop-up blockers.

• Don’t click on e-mails or attachments you don’t recognize and avoid suspicious websites. Always back up content on your computer.

If you have been victimized by this type of scam, contact your bank or credit card company and change your passwords.

For more information: See www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

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John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.

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