Should your business worry about tech support scams?

Should your business worry about tech support scams?

The thought of your computer being infected with viruses and other malware is scary, and cybercriminals exploit that fear to their own advantage. One way they do this is by carrying out tech support scams.

What is a tech support scam?

A tech support scam is a type of fraud where scammers use scare tactics to trick unsuspecting users into paying for technical support services to fix nonexistent computer problems.

How does a tech support scam work?

Scammers may call people directly, pretend to be technical support representatives of a reputable technology company like Apple or Microsoft, and inform the victim that their system is infected with a virus. They may also display fraudulent error messages on malicious websites to scare users into calling the technical support hotline on the screen.

When the victim calls the number, the scammer will ask them to install a program like TeamViewer, LogMeIn, or Splashtop that will give the latter access to their PC so they could purportedly fix the problem. Once connected, the scammers will misrepresent normal system messages as signs of problems and use technical jargon to gain the victim’s trust.

To fix the supposed problems and protect the device from future issues, the victim will need to pay around $450 or more via credit cards, checks, or gift cards. Once this amount is paid, the scammers will only pretend to make the necessary fixes and make unauthorized charges to the user’s account.

How do tech support scams affect consumers?

Microsoft estimates that over 3.3 million people fall victim to tech support scams every year, at an annual cost of $1.5 billion. These numbers are predicted to be even higher, as some people do not realize that they have been conned.

And because more people work from home today, cybercriminals are exploiting the situation by launching more cyberattacks. So if one of your employees falls for a tech support scam, not only will they lose a lot of money, but they also risk having company files stolen by hackers for personal and financial gain.

How can you prevent being a victim of tech support scams?

Reputable tech companies will never contact individuals directly to request personal or financial information, or provide technical support. Any communication with these organizations must be initiated by the user.

Instruct your employees to hang up immediately if they receive a call claiming that malware has been detected in their PC. Also, tell them to not click on links or download attachments from emails sent by people or organizations they've never heard of.

Lastly, tell your staff to never dial the number on tech support scam pop-ups and close such windows immediately. If the window doesn’t close, follow these steps:

  • On Windows devices:
    1. Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to open the Task Manager.
    2. Under Processes, select the web browser (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, etc.) where the pop-up appeared and click End task.
  • On Macs:
    1. Press Option+Command+Esc to open the Force Quit Applications window.
    2. Select the web browser where the pop-up appeared and click Force Quit.

If the entire system is unresponsive, have your IT team or managed IT services provider restart the computer properly.

What do you do if you fall victim to a tech support scam?

1. Report the scam

If you used your credit card to pay the tech support scammers, report the incident immediately to the card issuer or bank. Doing so will enable the issuer of the card to reverse the charges and allow them to block the card, effectively cutting off the scammer's access to it.

2. Change your passwords

If you shared a password with a tech support scammer, change it on every account using that password to avoid account takeover. Don't make the same mistake of reusing the same passwords for those accounts; create a unique one for each.

Remember to use strong passwords and enable multifactor authentication to better protect your online accounts from cybercriminals.

3. Uninstall programs

Uninstall the programs that the scammers have installed on your computer by following these steps:

  • On Windows devices:
    1. Click the Start key at the bottom-left corner of the screen and click Settings.
    2. Click on Apps, select the fraudulent program/s, and click Uninstall.
  • On Macs:
    1. Click the Finder icon at the bottom left of the screen.
    2. Look for the fraudulent application/s, and drag it/them to the trash.

4. Educate your staff

Show your employees how tech support scams work and what they need to look out for to avoid falling victim to such cyberthreats in the future. Make sure to train them regularly to ensure that they are applying what they’ve learned.

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