Remote access scams, also called PC support scams, are when a scammer pretends to be affiliated with a tech or computer company, such as Apple, Microsoft, or with their technical support division. But why exactly would anyone do this? Well, as with most scammers, they are after your money and willing to do or say anything to get it.
How Do Remote Access Scams Work?
You might be at home or work when it happens. You’ll receive an unsolicited phone call, text, or instant message through an app or online messenger. To the untrained eye, the message or phone call seems legit. The scammer will say something like:
“Have you noticed your computer or system running more slowly?”
“Our tech team at Microsoft has been alerted of an infraction on your computer. It appears you’ve been hacked and your files compromised.”
The scammer intends to get you to worry! They know that when your adrenaline is elevated, you’re more likely you to make snap judgments and react out of emotion which can mean big cash for your scammer!
They will tell you about a serious computer problem you’re facing and, although it’s non-existent, try and get you to pay for a remedy. They can be pushy and vocal, to keep you strung along and push the sale!
Other times, the pop-up message or email will offer you free tech-based software or solutions. Unfortunately, what they are linking you to are fake phishing sites which will steal your information! These sites trick consumers as they recreate or mimic the appearance of legitimate sites (such as Cox, Comcast, Microsoft, Apple, Intel).
Whether the scammer ends up connecting via phone, text, or message, they will follow roughly the same formula listed below:
- Use complex, detailed sounding technical terms.
- Pretend to be from a trusted tech company or direct you to a fake website for such a company. This website can phish your information or will ask for private details and information (name, address, SSN).
- Suggest you get on your computer and, once you do, they will ask you to view files. They will claim those files are problematic and that you need a software fix or update.
- Ask you for remote access to your computer. The scammers intent is actually to make your laptop receptive for attack and get information.
- Try and sell you worthless software that would be free through anywhere else.
- Get you to install malware and then steal your data and information (name, address, financial information, credit card details or social security number).
- Get you to sign up for a warranty or monitoring program, to get your credit card information or bill for fake services. Other times they’ll use that credit card information to charge a hefty sum you didn’t authorize.
How to Protect Yourself from This Scam
- Don’t click on any links in pop-up messages, spam emails, or on social media platforms, games, or apps.
- Use a search engine to see any private details about you, which might be being broadcast online and viewable to scammers. You can use Social Catfish for a professional algorithm-based search.
- Remove your address, phone number, etc., from public view.
- Beware of urgent messages about supposed computer problems.
- Don’t send money, for any reason, particularly on phone calls from someone you don’t know personally or intimately.
- Don’t allow anyone to take remote control of your computer unless you’ve previously hired them and trust their services.
- If you get this type of call or even suspect you have, ask for a call back number or hang up. If you do receive a call back number, search and verify it is the actual company number. Contact the Federal Trade Commission if you’ve been scammed.
- Always remember that a trustworthy company doesn’t typically ask for your credit card information over the phone.
- Keep passwords private, don’t share personal financial information with strangers, and change any passwords which might have been compromised.
Although you can’t prevent receiving these sorts of phone calls by following our tips, you can spot these sorts of scams and take appropriate action, without losing any of your money!