Most people are keen enough not to let a stranger use their computer. That’s why cyber attackers use remote access scams to steal your identity, money, or private files. They usually take advantage of the victim’s imposed fear and limited technological understanding to gain access to their device. For instance, the cyber attacker will tell you that they are getting alerts from your computer, notifying them that your device has been infected with a virus. Out of fear, you will probably follow their prompts to “recover” your computer.
Note that the scam begins with a scary-looking pop-up ad notifying you of a “virus” in your device, and provides a number for you to call urgently from which to gethelp. Alternatively, they will give you a call pretending to be tech support specialists willing to offer assistance. Whichever the approach, their aim is usually to gain remote access to your computer. But if you have already been scammed, you can always fix your computer and protect your digital devices and information contained in it going forward.
How Tech Support Scams Work and What Scammers Do
Once the scammers have earned your trust, they will ask you to install programs like GoToAssist, Team Viewer, or LogMeIn. Note that these programs are legitimate and are often used for honest, collaborative work because they allow another party to operate your computer from a different geographical location. Tech support scammers can use the remote-control software to:
- Install ransomware
- Install a Trojan horse “backdoor” to the system
- Steal sensitive data from the computer
But they will definitely perform some tech support theatrics to make you think that they know what they are doing. They will find a “virus” to remove and demand that you pay for their services, which includes “removing” it. Remember that they will have probably changed your passwords and encrypted your files already.
How to Deal With a Scam Call
The best way to handle a scam call is to hang up immediately. Alternatively, you can keep them talking. Waste their time and pretend to be looking for the error code or installing their remote software. The advantage of keeping them hooked is that you are temporarily stopping them from finding and scamming a less savvy individual. Notably, users of macOS and Linux are rarely targeted by scammers. So, if you want to waste a scammer’s time successfully, avoid giving them this information.
However, note that cyber attackers can be sleazy, aggressive, and pushy. The downside of keeping the scammer talking is that they may end up threatening or abusing you. Therefore, it’s probably not worth it to string them along. Also, make sure that you inform as many people as possible about the scam to ensure that no one around you falls victim.
How to Discourage a Tech Support Scammer
- Hang up
Most people find it difficult to hang up the phone on a stranger that sounds so polite and willing to help. But would you rather be swindled, or would you rather be considered rude? You may be tempted to want to waste their time, but remember that you will be wasting your own time as well. So, it’s actually not worth it.
- Give them silly responses
Scammers are a group of people that have refused to grow up and work hard for their money like everyone else. It would be a good idea to give them a childish response as well and act incredibly silly. You can wind them up in the following ways:
- Request them to repeat everything they say about six times
- Laugh hard, and you may need to be watching your favorite comedy for this
- Pretend to be translating what they are saying to an imaginary housemate
- Respond but end each response with a loud, annoying beep sound
- Repeat all their statements
The scammer will probably get upset and hang up the call. You can record the conversation if you’d like and share it on your social media to raise awareness hilariously.
- Introduce religion to them
If they called you to sell their idea, why not sell them yours too? You can annoy them by telling them about how you were convicted by a higher power to pick the call. Consider mentioning some religious teachings that condemn fraudulent behaviors to make them feel extra uncomfortable—and if you get the scammer to reconsider their ways, the better for everyone.
- Let them know that you are using Linux/Mac
If you want the “tech support” to get annoyed and hang up the call, tell them something they don’t want to hear. For instance, inform them that you are running a Linux Mint or Ubuntu, or that you have an Apple MacBook, and you will get them off the phone. This is because most scammers target Windows PCs.
- Tell them you have no internet
Internet access is the most essential aspect of a successful scam. The scammer knows too well that without the internet, you cannot download the remote access software that they need to control your computer and cause damage. So, tell them that you don’t have internet access; you could say that your router is broken or you haven’t paid the bill and your internet was cut off.
Don’t be surprised if the fraudster contests what you’ve told them, and tells you that your computer has been sending them virus infection alerts. Note that scammers are trained to be very persistent. Don’t be alarmed because your computer can’t send any alerts to anyone. But when you use Windows Defender, the computer can convey virus-related information to Microsoft. So, go ahead and make their call pointless.
What If You Already Gave Them Access to Your Computer?
Even the savviest IT professionals have fallen for a tech support scam. Some discover the fraud before installing the software, while others discover it afterward. You may have believed their lie, given them access, or even paid up. If the cyber attacker has remote access to your computer, you’ll probably see a cursor moving around your computer’s screen from time to time. If you’ve already given them access to your computer, here are the thingsthat you can do:
- To force-end the remote session, you should restart the computer immediately.
- Hold the power button on the computer if it’s impossible to restart it due to the remote access. Hold the button until the computer shuts down.
- Scan the computer for viruses and malware.
- Uninstall any programs or software that the scammer asked you to download.
What If They Installed Software?
If they managed to install software, they might have probably copied some data from your computer. Personally identifiable information can be resourceful to scammers because it is all they need to guess your passwords. If they gain access to your social media accounts, they will probably harvest critical information to steal your identity.
What If You Already Paid Them?
If you have already paid the tech support scammer, consider calling your credit card company immediately and inform them about the scam. If the company cancels the transaction, the scammer may not get away with the money you paid for their fake services. You should also changethe password for your credit card and other platforms you use.
Note that the credit details you gave out to scammers to retrieve payments for their fake service can enable them to steal from you. For instance, the three-digit number on the reverse, the valid until date, and the 16-digit number is everything the scammer needs to use the card further.
Ways to Stay Away From Tech Support Imposters
- Update your security software and scan the computer for malware if your computer seems to have a problem.
- If you get a pop-up warning on your computer informing you that your computer is infected with malware, do not dial the number provided. Remember that a real security warning would not require you to make any phone calls.
- Hang up any unexpected phone calls that claim that there’s a problem with your computer.
- Tech support is best offered by a firm you know and trust, or by a knowledgeable family or friend. But if you choose to seek help online, search for the tech support company together with the word “complaint,” “review,” and “scam.”
- Avoid giving remote access to people you don’t know.
Tech support scammers do not show up at your office or home to offer support. Instead, they will ask to gain remote access so that they can install malware that can enable them to steal your data.
You can keep them off by not clicking their pop-up ads and hanging up their calls immediately. Alternatively, you can waste their time and temporarily stop them from deceiving other less savvy internet users.
Remember that even the savviest IT professionals have been scammed because these scammers are very tactful. So, if you have been scammed, take immediate measures like asking your credit card company to cancel transactions with them.
Moreover, restart your computer to end the remote session, and change your passwords as soon as possible. Thereafter, take the right measures to avoid recurrent scams in the future.