Tech support scams cost New Englanders millions of dollars in 2021, according to FBI Boston.
These scams come in the form of someone pretending to be a tech support representative, generally posing as an employee for a well-known company, the Better Business Bureau says. Contact could come as a phone call, an email or a popup on your computer screen.
The scammer will warn of some urgent issue, possibly one that could lead to a crash or wiping of your machine. Then they'll offer to remote in to fix the problem, for a fee. If given access they could also install malware that can continue to cause problems or steal data from a victim.
The agency's Internet Crime Complaint Center reports $7.5 million in total losses and hundreds of victims in New England states. Here's the breakdown from four states.
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- 106 victims in ME lost $673,339
- 521 victims in MA lost $5,386,594
- 117 victims in NH lost $568,394
- 65 victims in RI lost $915,714
Nationally, 60% of victims were reported to be over 60 years old & accounted for 68% of the losses, according to the FBI. Here are some tips from the BBB to avoid becoming a victim:
Tips to spot this scam
- Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you are absolutely sure it is the representative of a computer support team with whom you initiated contact.
- Legitimate tech support companies don't make unsolicited phone calls. A popular way for thieves to get in touch with victims is through cold calls. The callers often claim to be from a tech company. Scammers can spoof official-looking phone numbers, so don't trust Caller ID.
- Look out for warning screens: Nearly half of tech support scams begin with an alert on the victim's computer screen. This pop-up will have a phone number to call for help. Instead, disconnect from the internet and Wi-Fi by shutting off the device. Restart it and run an antivirus scan.
- Be wary of sponsored links. When searching online for tech support, look out for sponsored ads at the top of the results list. Many of these links lead to businesses that scam consumers.
- Avoid clicking on links in unfamiliar emails. Scammers also use email to reach victims. These messages point consumers to scam websites that launch pop-ups with fake warnings and phone numbers.
If you think you may be a victim of one of these scams, you should take steps to protect yourself and your personal data, including contacting your bank, having your device scanned by a trusted business for malware, changing passwords, removing any remote access options, and reporting the scam to a law enforcement agency like the FTC or the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.