FBI Portland
Portland Media Office
(503) 460-8060
January 7, 2020

Oregon FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Tech Support Scams

Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense against digital device repair scams.

For many of us, the lives we lead in the digital world are critical to how well we live our lives in the real world. Those family pictures from five years ago? Stored on the computer. The important essay that is due next week? On the computer. Personal and security information? It’s on your computer and your phone and even that gadget on your wrist.

In fact, digital devices that don’t work can be devastating to your ability to function at home, at work, and everywhere in between. If something goes haywire, the panic starts to set in, and you are desperate for any possible way to recover the lost information. Unfortunately, as our dependency on our devices has increased, so have the number of reports that the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov) is receiving regarding repair scams occurring in Oregon.

Here’s one version of how the scam works: you find someone online to fix your problem and pay the requested amount for the repair services. Shortly after, you receive a call from a scammer saying that you are getting a partial refund on your money for one reason or another.

What could be better? Your computer got fixed and now you don’t have to spend as much as you thought on the repair! Think again…

At this point, the caller asks for access to your computer, and you watch as he supposedly transfers money into your account. However, just as the scammer hits “enter,” it appears as if additional zeroes were added to the total amount of money transferred. The scammer pretends to panic and begs you to transfer the extra money back to the scammer so he doesn’t get in trouble with his boss. The victim wants to help and authorizes a transfer of several thousands of dollars back. Only later does the victim discover that it was all a scam.

To avoid this scam:

  • Use a tech support company that you know and trust. Research the name of the company with words such as “scam,” “fraud,” or “complaints.”
  • Keep your computer software up to date to protect against threats. Outdated software is easier for hackers to exploit.
  • If someone claims to have deposited extra money into your account, check with your bank. Scammers can make it appear as if they deposited money without actually doing so. Call your bank to verify before doing anything else.
  • Back up your files and important documents. No computer system is going to be completely secure. Copy all of your files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. If your computer breaks or is hacked, you will still have access to your files.

Next week we will look at other ways fraudsters are using tech support scams to separate you from your money.

In the meantime, if you have been a victim of a digital device repair scam or any other cyber fraud, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your local FBI office.