FBI Phoenix
Brooke Brennan and Kevin Smith
(623) 466-1999
July 3, 2018

Tech Support Fraud Scam Losses Increase 263% in Arizona

PHOENIX, AZ—In 2017, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center—or IC3.gov—received about 11,000 complaints from people who claimed to have lost $15 million in tech support scams. That’s an 86% increase in losses from 2016.

So far this year, Arizona residents have lost close to $1.3 million to tech fraud scams, an increase that already surpasses last year’s total losses by 263%. This type of fraud continues to be a problematic and widespread scam.

To help consumers fight back, IC3.gov recently issued a warning about the evolving ways that tech support scam artists are operating. Here’s what you need to know:

Tech Support Fraud involves a criminal claiming to provide customer, security, or technical support in an effort to defraud unwitting individuals. Tech support fraud scams can start in any number of ways; an unsolicited phone call claiming the victim’s device is infected with a virus or is sending an error message to the caller, or pop-ups claiming a virus was found on their computer or with a phone number to contact a fraudulent tech support company.

Criminals offer to resolve the issues and will typically request remote access to your device. Once they have access to your device, they download malware onto your computer, launch phishing attacks against your contacts, and access your personal information—including tax returns, health records, and more to further perpetuate the fraud.

To top it off, you’ve likely paid them for their alleged help before you figure out the true cost of this tech support fraud.

The “fake refund” variation of tech support fraud is increasing in reports and losses. In this scheme, the criminal contacts the victim offering a refund for tech support services previously rendered. The criminal pretends to refund too much money to the victim’s account and requests the victim return the difference. The “refund and return” process can occur multiple times, resulting in the victim potentially losing thousands of dollars.

So how do you protect yourself?

  • Remember that legitimate customer, security, or tech support companies will not initiate unsolicited contact with individuals.
  • Install ad-blocking software that eliminates or reduces pop-ups and malvertising, which is online advertising designed to spread malware.
  • Be cautious of customer support numbers found via online searches. Phone numbers listed in a “sponsored” results section are likely boosted to the top because a business (or fraudster) paid for that service.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. The criminals like to create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure the victim into immediate action before you have time to think.
  • Do not give unknown, unverified people remote access to devices or accounts.
  • Ensure all computer anti-virus, security, and malware protection is up to date.
  • If you do receive a pop-up warning that looks like tech support fraud—shut down, wait a few minutes and try to restart your computer. Often, the pop-up will go away.
  • If a company is asking you to make transactions using gift cards that should be a red flag.

If you have been victimized by this scam, you can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.