Scummy Tech Scammers

One of the older scams I’ve heard about is the Nigerian Prince scam. That is the online email scam about some deposed monarch who needs your help getting his money out of the country. Other scams include fake lottery winnings, inheritances from dead uncles that nobody in the family ever heard of, and frantic messages from grandchildren, or other family members, needing money to get out of prison in a foreign country.

The people responsible for these frauds make millions of dollars every year, so sadly these scams are not going away. Instead, they continue to get harder to spot, and more sophisticated in their attacks against their victims.

The Tech Support Scam

One scam that some people have been the victim of is called “The Tech Support Scam.” This scam is started either by a pop-up message on a computer or by an unexpected phone call. No matter how the conversation starts, the goal of the scammer is to scare the victim and con them into giving them a few hundred dollars. They say things like, “I’m calling you from Windows,” or “Your computer has a trojan horse virus.” They often follow up with various technical sounding words that are often meaningless or misused.

Once the scammer convinces their victim that they are legitimate, the next step is to have the person give them access to their computer. They typically use real help desk or meeting software at this point. Using good software helps them convince the victim that it isn’t a scam. In every case, the victim allows them access to the computer.

Once they are on the computer, the goal is to scare the victim. One popular way is by opening the built-in Windows Event Viewer. They claim that the number of entries displayed shows that the computer is badly infected and in need of repair. It is normal for Event Viewer to be full of messages. These messages include the words “Error” and “Warning,” along with yellow and red exclamation marks. While it looks scary, it is normal behavior for Microsoft Windows and can usually be ignored.

It is at this stage that the scammer will secretly install unwanted software on your computer. They can use this software for a variety of purposes, including stealing from the victim or using the computer to attack other people.

Once the scammer has convinced their victim that the computer needs repair, they will either request payment right away, or they pass the victim along to another scammer who will try to convince them to pay to have the computer cleaned and protected. After the victim pays, the scammer may install some software and tell them to call back if they have any more problems. They really do want the victim to call back because they know that they can get more money later.

Protect Yourself

To protect yourself against the many scams that are out there you must be careful. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends hanging up on robocalls and learning how to spot imposters. They say we should not give out personal information or money in an event like this. The FTC also says never deposit a check and then send money back to the scammer. If the check is fake, then the account owner is responsible for paying the bank. To learn more, visit https://www.ftc.gov/scams.

-Michael Martinell, The Broadband Guy