FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Tech Support Fraud
Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week, building a digital defense against tech support fraud.
Recently we talked about the dangers that come with people offering you tech support for your computer, phone, or other device. This is a scam in which the fraudster tries to convince you that you need his help fixing a usually non-existent problem. In the end, he gets access to all of your personal information and online accounts, and you get nothing but grief.
Since we did that original report, we’ve received new information about how these fraudsters are targeting victims: through social media posts.
For example, one victim said she was having trouble with her computer and posted a question on the computer manufacturer’s Facebook page. Soon thereafter, she received a call from a man identifying himself as a tech support employee for that company. She gave him remote access to her computer, and that’s where the real trouble started.
He claimed her problem was with software on the computer, and he would just need a small payment to update her system. She tried to make the payment with a debit card, but he said that card didn’t work, and he would need a credit card instead. He later had her log into the family’s second computer as well so he could allegedly show her how to remove viruses herself in the future.
By the end of the encounter, the fake tech support worker had tried to charge several thousand dollars to her credit card. It also appeared as if he had accessed her email, her bill pay system, and her PayPal account while he had control of her computer. In addition, he opened a Western Union account in an attempt to send multiple wire transfers. He may have also had access to more personal information—including her Social Security number—via the tax returns that were stored on the computer.
So how do you keep yourself—and your device—safe?
- Don’t post personal information, including your phone number or email address, on a public website or social media platform. If you need help with a problem on your device, contact the company in question directly.
- Remember that legitimate customer, security, or tech support companies will not initiate unsolicited contact with you.
- 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 have been victimized by an online scam or any other cyber fraud, be sure to report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.