Imagine this – you are sitting at home minding your own business when you receive a phone call from an official sounding person telling you that your computer is seriously infected with viruses. They say they will help you out and eliminate the viruses if you will provide a credit card number.
An increasing number of computer users are receiving similar phone calls and some — afraid of potential data loss and device damage — are surrendering their bank account information in the hope this will protect their tech.
If you get such a call, we’re here to tell you — hang up. It’s a scam!
Geek Squad Agents are seeing a rise in phone scams targeting PC and Mac owners. Cybercriminals pretending to work for Microsoft, Geek Squad, or any other nationally-recognized tech company call their intended victims, claim they’ve scanned their computers remotely and found viruses on them. Relying on computer users’ fear of viruses, data loss and identity theft, they trick people into giving them actual access to the computer.
Once the scammer has access to the victim’s system, they will often show the user scary looking error messages on the machine, require immediate payment to cleanup the “dangerously infected” computer and install more “protection” software onto the system. Chances are they’ll take the opportunity to install other bits of malware to capture the victim’s online shopping or banking information.
If your first instinct is not to trust cold calls about fixing your computer, you’re absolutely right. Scammers often use publicly available information (like your name and telephone number) to make initial contact, and can often make an educated guess about your PC’s operating system. They can sound very convincing (they are good at this), but don’t be taken in.
It’s important to understand that reputable tech companies (like Microsoft, Geek Squad and other tech leaders) will not scan computers remotely without permission from the owner. They will not call computer users unless they are already working with them on a support issue.
Should you receive one of these telephone calls, here are a few tips to help protect yourself:
- When in doubt, hang up the phone and call the company back at their publicly listed telephone number. You can usually find contact information on their web site.
- Never provide a credit card or banking account information to someone on a cold call — even if they claim to be from a computer support company.
- Never give remote access to your computer to any technician unless they can confirm they are a legitimate member of a computer support company with which you have an existing support agreement.
If you’ve been a victimized by a phone scammer:
- Contact your credit card or bank and speak with the fraud prevention team to have the charges reversed and the account protected from future charges.
- Change your computer password, along with the password of any online accounts that may have been provided to the cybercriminal.
- Update your security software and run a full scan on your computer, or use one of our tools. You may also want to contact one of our Geek Squad Online Support Agents to have the PC checked for malware.
Phone scams are successful because cybercriminals rely on computer users trusting an unknown person with access to their computers. Together, we can defeat these scams by simply hanging up when you receive an unrequested support call, regardless of who they say they are.
Agent Derek has been removing techno-stress from the lives of his Geek Squad clients since 2005. When not providing remote help as an Online Support Agent, he likes to take to the road on a vintage motorcycle for adventures through Ohio country highways.