Tech Support Scams


This issue has been becoming more and more prevalent, with over 1/3 of our customers reporting at least having been contacted in some way. Tech support scams from people calling and pressuring you or coercing you into allow them to access your computer. What happens is usually one of two things. First, your computer either contracts some form of malware and displays pop-ups (maybe with accompanying audio) stating that your computer is infected and needs cleaned, or that there was an error, and you need to call a certain number. The second way is that they just cold call people with an automatic dialer. Odds are, if you call enough people, you will find someone that has had some kind of issue with their computer recently.

Fake blue screen with warning message

Fake Blue Screen with warning message

The calls typically go along these lines:
“Technician”: We saw that your computer was having some troubles. If you visit a website and give us a code, we can look into it for you.
You: Great, I was having some trouble. I had a screen come up and say there was a problem last week.
They proceed to tell you to go to some site, usually something like ‘pcsupport24-7’ or ‘besttechsupport’ and then a link there actually takes you to a different site (normally LogMeIn Rescue) where you are prompted to install some software and then provide the person on the phone with the code it generates. They are then able to remotely control your computer.
“Technician”: See all of these items here? They are all problems and junk that needs fixed.
You: Great, how do we fix that?
“Technician”: Just a one-time payment of [up to $300, usually about 100-125] and we will support you for one year.
You: Well, it hasn’t really been that bad, and I have someone that normally works on this for me, I’ll give them a call.
“Technician”: No, if you don’t do this right now, you can’t get it fixed. No local technician can fix this problem. And if you hang up, don’t bother calling back because we won’t guarantee it if someone else worked on it.  *We actually had someone tell a client this, just today*
You (hopefully): I’ll take my chances with my local support.

Then you should disconnect, and immediately shut off your computer. We have seen them become malicious, destroying files, installing items that will cause future problems, and preventing you from doing anything.
These people are almost always just someone in a call center, and they are running a scam. Of the few clients we have that have actually payed them and allowed them access to their computers, every one has then had to call us for some huge problem immediately afterward, because the person on the phone installs some unknown ‘protection’ software and changes configurations until things stop working.

Let’s break down some of the things they will try to do in an attempt to persuade you. First, never believe them that they can do something that a local tech can’t. No matter where you are, there is always someone better than them. You are usually even better off trying to solve the [sometimes non-existent] problem yourself.
They will show you lists upon lists of errors and problems. These are usually not anything wrong, but just logs of whatever the computer has been doing. You know how people can find out nearly anything that happened on your computer? It logs nearly EVERYTHING. A successful bootup may generate over 100 log messages. They show you these quickly, then delete them so you cannot look closely at any of them.
They try to pressure you into fixing the problem right then and there. If someone tells you that the problem is severe and needs taken care of quickly, that’s one thing, but bullying you into working only with them right at that moment, that’s a sure sign that they do not want you to talk to anyone else, for fear that you will learn what they are up to.
They will try to say they are from something like “Windows Tech Department”. They are not Microsoft employees, they named their company “Windows Tech Department” so they can sound legitimate.  Sometimes, they will refuse to answer what company they work for.
If you hang up on them, or refuse their service, they sometimes repeatedly call back every few minutes. We have found one of the best ways to get them to stop is to turn off the computer, and if they call back, tell them that you have your normal technician on the way to look at it. Once you have someone else involved, they normally stop the harassment.

If you want more information, here is the FTC website on this issue, and it includes instructions on how to report these people.

Remember, we will consult with you on the phone for no charge. Check out one of our previous posts to see an example of how to remove a lot of the types of software that causes these messages to appear.
If you have given them remote access to your system, your problems are beyond the scope of that post, and may need a qualified technician (someone you trust, like us!) to ensure that there is no lingering threat set to cause future issues or allow them remote access.

The best way to deal with these people is to not deal with them at all! Protect yourself; If someone is on the phone with you, ask what company they work for, look them up online, see if they have reviews or a google or facebook page. Gather information about them. If you car needs worked on, do you trust some guy that was driving by and just knocked on your door and said they could fix an issue with your car that you weren’t positive you had in the first place? You would at least ask around to see if they did decent work, or even if it might be someone just trying to steal your wallet from the glove box while they have your car.

One last note: there are legitimate uses of remote control software, and they all fall under making sure that you know and trust the person on the other end. If you local shop is doing the work (as we sometimes do), that’s perfectly fine to let them in, since it will probably save both of you time and money. If you are called out of the blue, or are told to call a number, and you’ve not had contact with these people before, chances are you shouldn’t let them have free reign inside your information.

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