FBI Portland
Beth Anne Steele
(503) 460-8099
July 18, 2017

FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Tech Support Fraud

In 2016, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received almost 11,000 reports of tech support fraud incidents. In those cases, victims reported losses of more than $7.8 million.

So what is tech support fraud? Imagine you receive a call from someone who says he is with a computer software or security company. Maybe he says he is with a cable or Internet provider. The caller tells you that your software is out of date, and you are vulnerable to a cyber attack. Or, he says your equipment is malfunctioning, and he can fix it remotely -- saving you a service call. All you have to do is to provide the caller with remote access to your computer or device. No idea what he’s talking about? No worries -- he will be happy to walk you through all the technical details.

In another variation of the fraud, the bad guy convinces you that you overpaid for a recent service. He would be happy to refund the overage if you would just give him a few details -- such as your bank account number -- so he can arrange the refund.

In reality, he is either just trying to get into your account to clean it out -- or, he is working for long-term access to launch other frauds. In this second example, he transfers money back and forth between your own checking, savings and retirement accounts to make it appear as though there is a refund when in fact there is none. Eventually, he tells you that he refunded too much and asks you to wire money back to the fraudulent company. Victims often don't figure this out for quite awhile as the losses pile up.

So how do you protect yourself?

  • Never give a stranger remote access to your computer or other electronics.
  • If something seems a bit odd, it probably is. Hang up and look up a phone number for that company or provider using a publicly-available resource.
  • Don't give an unsolicited caller your bank account number or other personal information that he could use to access your accounts.
  • Don't let someone pressure you into buying a computer security product or subscription. Oftentimes, there are reputable, free products that will do that work for you. Seek out help from someone you trust to ensure that if you do pay for something -- it is worth the cost.

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