As technological advancements continue to happen, the strategies employed by cybercriminals evolve in tandem. In 2023, one insidious threat that demands vigilance, especially among those less familiar with the complexities of technologies, is the looming menace of tech support scams.
These scams manifest in various guises, from deceptive phone calls and intrusive pop-up messages to subtler but equally dangerous phishing emails. Falling prey to these schemes can result in dire consequences, including financial loss and identity theft.
In this article, we shall embark on a journey to discern the telltale signs and adopt preventative measures to shield ourselves and our dear ones from the clutches of these malevolent actors.
Tech support scammers often initiate contact without any prior request from you. They might call you out of the blue, send unsolicited emails, or display alarming pop-up messages on your computer. To avoid falling for these, you need to:
- Hang up on unsolicited calls: If someone claims to be from a tech support company and you didn’t request their assistance, it’s best to hang up. Legitimate tech support companies do not cold-call individuals.
- Ignore suspicious emails: Don’t open emails from unknown sources, especially those claiming urgent tech issues. Delete such emails without clicking on any links or downloading attachments.
- Close pop-up messages: If you encounter a pop-up message warning you of a computer problem, don’t click on it. Instead, close the pop-up or restart your computer if necessary.
Tech support scammers often pretend to be employees of well-known tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, or major antivirus software providers. To confirm the legitimacy of the caller:
- Ask for their credentials: Request the caller’s name, employee ID, and contact details. A genuine tech support representative will provide all these. You can then enter some information (like full name, address, or phone number) on Nuwber to verify the person’s legitimacy in minutes.
- Call the company directly: If you have serious doubts, don’t use the contact details given by the caller. Instead, look up the official contact information of the company they claim to represent and reach out directly to verify the call.
- Verify online: Many tech companies have online chat support and customer service portals. Use only official channels to confirm the caller’s identity.
Scammers use various tactics to manipulate people into believing their claims. Some common red flags in their conversations include the following:
- High-pressure tactics: Con artists often create a sense of urgency, claiming that your computer is at risk and needs immediate attention. Legitimate tech support won’t pressure you in this way.
- Requests for payment: Be cautious if they ask for payment upfront or request your credit card information.
- Demand of remote access: Scammers might demand remote access to your computer. Only grant this if you are sure of the person’s legitimacy. Even if you provide remote access, make sure they don’t have access to any crucial information.
- Password requests: Tech support agents never ask for passwords. It’s a big red flag if they do.
One of the best ways to avoid tech support scams is through education. Keep up with the latest scam tactics by following trusted cybersecurity news sources. Ensure that your family members and loved ones, especially older people, know the potential risks and tactics scammers use. Encourage family members to consult you or another tech-savvy individual before taking action if they suspect a tech support scam. Never allow your children to make any transactions on their own, as they can easily be manipulated.
Outdated software can put your devices at an increased risk of falling prey to scams and malware. To avoid falling victim to tech support scams, activate automatic updates for your operating system, web browsers, and antivirus software. These updates often encompass security patches that protect against known vulnerabilities. Download software only from official sources, such as the manufacturer’s website or reputable app stores.
A robust antivirus program can help detect and prevent scams and malware. Select a reputable antivirus program and keep it updated. Check for the reviews before selecting an antivirus program. Activate real-time scanning to identify and block suspicious files and websites. Scammers often create fake antivirus alerts—only trust signals from your legitimate antivirus software.
Strong passwords and 2FA add an extended layer of security to your accounts. It would help if you created passwords that are hard to guess. Letters, numbers, and symbols should be mixed in an unpredictable way. Activate two-factor authentication for your online accounts whenever possible. This makes it significantly difficult for scammers to gain access to your device.
If you encounter a tech support scam, it’s crucial to report it. You can report scams to the Federal Trade Commission, an independent agency that helps protect people from fraud, deception, and other malicious practices. You can also report tech support scams to your local law enforcement, as they have their cyber wings. Don’t forget to also inform other anti-fraud organizations that can prevent the scammer who reached out to you from proceeding with their practices.
Protecting your personal information is essential to avoiding tech support scams. Only give out personal or financial details over the phone or online if you know that the other party can be trusted. Use secure and encrypted websites when sharing sensitive information and during online transactions. Keep a close eye on your bank and credit card statements for unauthorized charges. Your personal information is a treasure trove for fraudsters, and if they can get hold of it, you can become a victim of identity theft, which can lead to irreversible consequences.
In 2023, tech support scams are evolving, but you can protect yourself. Be cautious of unexpected messages, calls, and pop-ups, verify callers’ identities, and educate your family about scam tactics. Keep your software updated, use strong passwords, consider two-factor authentication for added security, report any suspicious activity promptly, and regularly review your financial statements for unusual transactions. Stay vigilant to stay safe online.