FBI Sees Increase in Technical Support Scams in Alaska
The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are reporting an increase in technical support scams in Alaska and anticipate a further increase in the months leading up to the holiday season.
Technical support fraud involves a criminal claiming to provide customer, security, or technical support to defraud individuals, and can disproportionately victimize our senior population.
In technical support scams, fraudsters will frequently target victims through pop-up warnings on their devices, or unsolicited phone calls that could appear to be from the same area code as the victim. The fraudsters impersonate employees of popular technology companies to mislead victims into thinking there are security problems with their computer or online accounts. They will then offer to resolve the issue, and in many cases, will attempt to gain access to the victim’s device by requesting the victim install remote access programs. Then, using high-pressure tactics, they persuade the victim to pay for the technical support services via prepaid cards, such as gift cards, or via money transfer applications or services.
Technical support scams were originally an attempt by criminals to gain access to devices to extort payment for fraudulent services, but more can happen once they are given access to the device including, but not limited to, access to computer files that may contain financial accounts, passwords, and personal data.
To combat this increasingly common form of elder fraud, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office advise the public to build a digital defense by doing the following:
- Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door service offers.
- Remember that legitimate tech companies will not make unsolicited phone calls, will not request remote access to your device through third party applications, will not ask for account passwords or for payment via gift cards or prepaid cards.
- Ensure desktops, laptops, and mobile devices have anti-virus software installed and routine security updates are applied.
- Disconnect from the Internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-up message or locked screen. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
- If you do need computer support, go to a company that you know and trust. You should make the initial contact, preferably in person or by phone, using publicly available contact information.
- Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks, or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
- Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action. Call the police immediately if you feel there is a danger to yourself or a loved one.
If you believe you are a victim of fraud, or know a senior who may be, regardless of financial loss, report the incident to the FBI Anchorage Field Office at 907-276-4441, online at tips.fbi.gov, or through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.