Information on Tech Support Scams
In 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice coordinated its largest fraud sweep of efforts to target older adults. Its main focus was tech support scams. According to their reports, between the years of 2015 and 2018 adults over the age of 60 filed more loss reports related to tech support scams than from any other category. In 2018, tech support scams resulted in more than 142,000 consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network.
While some arrests have been made, it’s important to remain vigilant to avoid future tech support scams, no matter what your age.
How it happens
Scammers trick their targets into giving them remote access to their computers in the guise of providing technical support. Here are some examples of how it can happen:
- You get a call from someone claiming to be a computer technician from a well-known company.
- An internet pop-up warns you about a computer problem that doesn’t exist and you call the number listed as support.
- You have an actual technology issue, search the internet for support and inadvertently select a fraudulent website for help.
The person being scammed is persuaded to give remote computer access to the scammer, who can then steal sensitive information or install spyware that gathers information that can be used for fraud purposes. In some cases, victims have even signed in to their online financial accounts and given the scammer the ability to transfer funds from their accounts.
What to do
Avoid tech support scams by not allowing remote access to your devices unless you have researched the support website you are contacting, you were the one to initiate contact, and by generally being wary of suspicious pop-ups.
If you or someone you know has been targeted by these scammers:
- Report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
- Contact your financial institutions if your accounts have been compromised.
Additional scams that target older adults:
- Letters that look official and personalized, offering cash, prizes or other things of value for recipients who send payment to cover fees or taxes
- Someone posing as a relative, e.g., a grandchild in trouble in a foreign country who needs money to handle the problem
- Fake financial services websites offering loans
No matter what our age, we’re all susceptible to any type of fraud. The Federal Trade Commission has some great resources to learn more about identifying tech support scams. You can also learn more about the most recent scam alerts identified by the FTC.