PSA: Beware Tech Support Scams

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Apple does a great job with Macs, iPhones, and iPads, but stuff goes wrong all the time—as real professional providers of technical support we know that better than anyone.

So, tech support scams that try to defraud unsuspecting users in the name of fixing problems that don’t exist really, really, really get under our skin. Therefore, we’ve put together some helpful tips on how to protect yourself.

Let’s Break Down How These Scams Work

Step 1 of being a horrible human being trying to trick innocent computer users is trying to get you on the phone. You might see an alarming pop-up message informing you of some problem—possibly even that you’ve contracted a virus or your identity has been compromised-and then helpfully providing a number to call for help. Or possibly you end up on a Web site that offers a free “security scan” that claims it will help you find problems and urges you with scary language to call. Heck, now a days you may   even receive a direct call from someone claiming to be from Apple, Google, or Microsoft—Doug gets these all the time.

Now once they get you on the line, the sleaze balls’ next objective is to convince you to pay them to solve your “problem.”

They do this by throwing around technical terms and having you look at low-level files that, they’ll say, show evidence of issues like malware infection or file corruption. They may even ask for remote access to your Mac using legitimate software like TeamViewer and use it to show you log messages that look like concerning errors.

If you fall for this tech talk, the scammers close in for the kill. They may ask for your credit card number to pay for the “services” they’ve rendered, enroll you in a fake maintenance or warranty program, sell you software that is normally available as a free download, or install malware that will give them continued access to your computer. No bueno.

 

Here is How to Protect Yourself from These Scam-holes

- First, never ever call a phone number that appears in a pop-up dialog, no matter what it says. Legitimate messages will never ask you to do that.

- If you get an unexpected call from someone you don’t know claiming to be tech support, hang up immediately. Don’t be fooled by caller ID, since it can be spoofed to look like the call is coming from a legitimate company, like Apple.

- Don’t give your passwords to anyone who contacts you on the phone, and never allow anyone you haven’t met in person (and trust!) to control your Mac remotely.

- Lastly, if you are even remotely unsure about whether a pop-up or phone call is legitimate or a scam artist—CALL US! We’d be happy to talk with the supposed tech support or check your machine to see if there really is anything wrong with. That is what we are here for.

Now, the awkward part here is that, if we do provide tech support for you and particularly if we’re providing you with proactive notification of problems, we may need to call you and even ask for remote control of your Mac. However, we will always identify ourselves clearly, and if you’re at all concerned, you can call us back at a contact number you already have or ask us for some piece of information no scammer could know. Its always better to be safe than sorry.

 

If You Do Get Con’ed, Here Are the Next Steps

First, we’re here to help you for real. So, please feel free to contact us for assistance. That said, there are three main things to focus on:

- Change any passwords that you shared to something completely different. Do NOT add numbers or symbols to the password you currently use. Do NOT use a simplar password. Do NOT pass go—its’s a bummer but its gotta be completely differently (side note: the longer the password the better, think passpharses). Plus, if you use the same passwords on any Web sites, change those passwords too.

- If you have legitimate anti-malware software, run it to make sure the scammer didn’t install anything evil on your Mac—or call us and we will do that for you. If you don’t have up-to-date anti-malware software, contact us to see what we recommend.

- If you paid for any bogus services, call your credit card company as soon as possible and reverse the charges. You can also report the incident to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.

Finally, you need to beware of the “refund scam.” Several months after you’ve been scammed, you might get a call asking if you were satisfied with the service and offering a refund if you weren’t happy, or saying that the company is filing for bankruptcy and providing refunds. Either way, the scammer will then ask for your bank account or credit card number to process the refund, but instead of depositing money, the heathens will steal more. Yes, unfortunately people actually do this. If you get a call like this, hang up immediately.