Beware of tech support scams

ISD Technical Security has seen an increasing number of tech support scams reported, in which scammers posing as technical assistance attempt to gain access to your computer or offer to "fix" your computer for a fee. Find out more about how to spot these scams.

Beware of tech support scams click to enlarge A scam tech support message might look like this.

You are working on your computer, accessing a website for job-related purposes, when a window pops up indicating that your workstation is infected with a virus and there are dire consequences ahead if immediate action isn’t taken.  The message helpfully provides a 1-8## number for you to call for assistance.  Or maybe you are working at your desk and the phone rings.  When you answer the call you are greeted by someone claiming to be from Microsoft support.  They inform you that they have identified malicious activity coming from your workstation and you need to take immediate action.

Both of these scenarios are common ways that tech support scams are initiated.  Once they have you on the phone, the scammers will attempt to direct you to a website to download software to allow them to remote to your PC to “fix” your issues.  Once loaded, this software will allow them to access your workstation.   It is likely that at some point during the call you will hear something along the lines of “we did find some bad things on your workstation and for the small fee of <insert amount here>, we can fix that for you”.    Once you provide them with a credit card number, they will likely go through some worthless motions on the screen, inform you that everything is ok now, and go on their way.

At that point, not only are you out the fee they charged you, but it is likely that if your PC didn’t have malware on it before, it possibly does now.  Even if you didn’t pay the fee, the remote software they installed to access your workstation could be taking other actions to capture sensitive information or possibly make your PC part of a botnet.

ISD Technical Security has seen an increasing number of these scams reported.  More often than not, people recognize them for what they are and disconnect without taking any action.  Other times, they don’t realize the call for what it was until after the fact.

If you find yourself in one of these situations, understand there is no legitimate scenario where your computer will start beeping and ask you to call a toll-free number.  There is also no scenario where Microsoft support techs are sitting around monitoring the world’s PC for malicious traffic so they can call you and offer to fix it.  Like most computer related scams, they will try instill a sense of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) to create panic on your part and get you to allow them access.  Don’t fall for it.

If you do happen to get one of these calls and realize too late that it is a scam, make sure you contact the ISD Service Desk at 984-974-4357 to report it as soon as possible.

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