Tech support scams, which get people to pay for fake computer help or steal their personal information, are convincing. You might already know the signs of a tech support scamopens in a new window, but do your friends and family? Here’s what they need to know now:
- Companies like Microsoft don’t call and ask for access to your computer. If you get a call like that, it’s a scam.
- Real companies also won’t ask for your account passwords. Only scammers do.
- Tech support scammers try to convince you they’re legitimate. They’ll pretend to know about a problem on your computer. They’ll ask you to open normal files that look alarming to make you think you need help.
- If you do need computer help, go directly to a person, business, or website you know you can trust. General online searches are risky because they might pull up another scam.
If people you know were already scammed, here’s what to tell them:
- If you paid with a credit or debit card, call your credit card company or bank immediately and tell them what happened.
- If you paid with a gift card, contact the gift card company (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) ASAP to see if the funds are still on the card and can be frozen before it’s too late.
- A tech support scammer who has access to your computer can install malware. Update your computer’s security software, scan your computer, and delete anything it identifies as a problem. Restart your computer to be sure the changes take effect. Going forward, download security updates as soon as they are available. Most operating systems have a setting to download and install security updates automatically. Use it. And install updates for your other software, including apps.
- If the scammer got your password for a financial account, or a site like Amazon, change the password immediately. Contact the company directly to make sure nobody has broken into your account.
Report your experience to ftc.gov/complaint. You’re not alone, and reporting these scams helps law enforcement go after the people behind tech support scams.