These days, having a broken computer or digital device fills anyone with dread – and with good reason. While our devices will inherently not last forever, we expect them to be hardy enough to last a while. This causes us to be careful in using them. This extra layer of caution is what helps us with our online privacy and security.
But it rarely goes that smoothly. And so cyber scammers prey on this fear: that something has gone terribly wrong, and we need to get it fixed. Scammers take this to an entirely new level by making it seem like something is wrong when there really isn’t.
This is the cornerstone of technical support scams: something breaking that needs to be fixed. It’s one of the more common scams in place today—and it’s surprisingly easy to avoid, if you know what to look out for.
It comes out of nowhere
This is essentially the most effective way scammers can get you: to imply that even if something is going right, it isn’t. Oftentimes it’s the panic that plays in favour of the scammer, as they intentionally scare you into complying. But take careful notice of what actually is going on. More often than not, these calls will come out of the blue, with no warning or indication that something is actually wrong. This is the first sign that it is a scam.
They mention a company
Another common trick that scammers employ is to make it appear like they come from a legitimate source that is authorised to repair your computer. Appearing legitimate makes it easier for them to convince you to hand over control, or to disclose sensitive information to make accessing your device easier.
They come to you
Here’s another way to get into your system by masquerading as a good deed: they come to you. While good customer service is important to companies like Microsoft, it’s important to remember that these are big companies. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll check up on you personally as they usually push out warnings and updates via your computer. They won’t come to you—you would have to go to them, as it saves time and effort.
They insist there’s a problem
…when there really isn’t. Scammers of this type are alarmist by nature: they want you to feel panic, and therefore be more susceptible to their suggestions. They’ll even go so far as to ask you to open something like the Windows Log Event Viewer to “prove” their errors. There will be errors that your computer will display there, but these are simply diagnostics, nothing more.
They’ll ask you to install software for them, or have them remotely control your computer
This is the most blatant way they can gain access, and is usually only applied if you’ve fallen for the first couple of methods that they’ve tried above. This is the surest sign that they’re trying to scam you, as companies will never, ever ask you to install a program for them without certification. Neither will they ask to remotely control your computer, even just to fix an issue.
Technical support scams work similarly to those plays made by con artists, relying on their audience’s expectations, fears and assumptions in order to get their job done. It’s essential to maintain a sound frame of mind when dealing with such scams. Being aware of technical support scams is the first step to preventing them.
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