Nearly 143,000 people reported tech support scams in 2018. It’s clearly an oldie-but-goodie for a reason.
Typically these kinds of cons involve a phony representative helping you “fix” a fake computer problem for a fee.
Recently the Better Business Bureau warned consumers about new kinds of tech support scams. Now scammers are trying a new approach by offering you a refund instead—but there’s a catch (of course). In an other version, you’re told your IP address is being used fraudulently and you could be liable.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also reporting a fresh approach to this tried-and-true con. In this case, you search online for tech support help and end up finding a scammer who sells you costly software you don’t need.
Here’s how it works
Scam #1: A big tech company appears to call you, such as Microsoft, Apple, or Dell. The person on the phone claims you were erroneously charged for tech support product and so the company owes you a refund. To get that refund, all you need to do is give them some information. The person on the phone says you need to give them banking or credit card. They might ask you to log in to specific accounts/websites or give them remote access to your computer. You may even be asked to pay using a pre-paid debit card and give them the numbers.
Scam #2: You’re on the internet and you get a pop-up message on your screen. It appears to be from a well-known tech company and it says there’s a problem and you must call. When you talk to someone, you’re told your IP address is being used for fraud or even for child pornography websites—and that you could be held liable. Scammers may also call you out of the blue too, with the same claim. Either way, you’re told the person on the phone can help if you pay and give them remote access to your computer.
Scam #3: Your computer is behaving badly or you need to recover a lost password and need expert help. You go online to find someone. You locate what looks to be a reputable company and fill out an online form to give them your contact information. When the company calls you, they ask for access to your computer to supposedly check for problems. Once there, they show you “evidence” of viruses or other threats that they say need to be addressed immediately. To fix the issues, the scammers insist you need to purchase expensive software from them that you don’t, in reality, need.
Regardless of the specifics of the scam, you’re out money—and worse, if you gave them remote access to your computer, they likely stole personal and account information.
Six ways to avoid these scams
The Better Business Bureau and FTC say you should:
- Be wary of unsolicited calls. Despite what the Caller ID might say, legitimate tech companies do not make unsolicited calls to customers.
- Never give a stranger remote access to your computer. Scammers can steal your personal information and install malware that can be used to commit identity theft.
- Beware of requests for untraceable payments. Scammers often ask for payment by wire transfer, gift card, or pre-paid debit cards. Legitimate companies do not—or will not—accept payments in these forms.
- If you need support, go to a company you know and trust. Get advice from friends or family for a referral. If you must look online, do a search on the company’s name with the terms “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.”
- Never call a number given in a pop-up window that warns of computer problems. If you get a suspicious pop-up, don’t click on anything and restart your computer. If the issue persists, use tip #4 to find a reputable company to help.
- Never open attachments or email links from unknown senders. These can generate the fake pop-up warnings that prompt you to call scammers.
For more information about tech support scams, visit the Better Business Bureau’s website or check out our other blog about tech support refund scams).
Updated 3/22/2019 to include the Better Business Bureau’s latest warning
Updated 3/6/2019 to include the FTC’s latest warning
On March 15 at 2:15pm, I got a call from this number: 1-224-236-0443, and the Caller ID said they were “SDF SDD”. A man with a strong Indian accent told me that I had a refund coming, that I had paid for some tech work done on my computer. i knew what this was and hung up on him right away because it was a scam. I know that there are legitimate refunds being given out to people who have fallen for the Microsoft tech scam, and was one who fell for it, but I’m not sure when it happened, or where to get it. People should not have to pay to get a refund. Thanks! Nancy King
They keep calling me saying im due a refund for a warranty that i bought on my computer and that they are going out of business abd i need to call them very soon.
I just received a call from “Mark Brown” who spoke with a heavy Indian accent. He said that my security software needed to be renewed – TODAY – and I should pay $200 to keep it going or cancel it and he would refund my money. It took an hour to try to convince him that I was not going to let him connect remotely to my computer and that I had never signed up for his “Michael’s Soft Essential Security” program, and I was not due a refund! I finally had to hang up on him, but not before he threatened to block my computer and make it useless. I countered with the fact that I would report him to the FTC, if anything happened to my computer. He called me on 800-877-252-8371 and said he was in California. When he gave me his personal phone number to call him back, it was 224-236-0443 – the same number that Nancy King reported above. Who are these guys kidding? Do they think we are all stupid?
Beware, everyone, and don’t fall for their scam! Thanks, Janet Baker 11-26-2019
Woah! Thanks for sharing your experience, Janet. I’m so glad you quickly figured out it was a scam and didn’t fall for it!
If anyone cares, the scam artist gave me his email address as:email@example.com and the subject was “Zoho Assist – Remote Support session” The context of the email was “Hello ,
I’ve initiated a remote support session to assist you better. Please join my session by clicking the below link and follow the instructions.
I would never join a session with remote possibilities for a guy like this.
Thanks for listening!
855 969 0068 just got it’s saying that , Apple refund and call back this number, I am not call back … trapper
Thanks for this blog. I just got a call saying that I was charged $499 for support from vtech and if I want a refund stay on the line so I did. I checked my account while I was talking to the guy and I told him I hav e not been charged what is going on? He said well you will be and I can help you get a refund. He did not ask my name or anything to look up info just said go get on google chrome and type in joinzoho..i looked to see what that was and it was to gain remote access. I said are wanting me to give you remote access to my computer? he said yes, so I can give you a refund…UMM no sir! that is not how a refund workd and there are no charges on my account to refund so you are gaining access to my stuff and that is not going to happen I hung up and read this blog..it was helpful and I hope it helps someone else.