Tech support scammers increased their activity during 2017 according to figures from Microsoft. The software behemoth said it received 153,000 reports from customers who'd come in contact with tech-support scammers either via a cold call, spam or the web.

These reports came from 183 countries and were up 24 percent compared to 2016. However, it’s likely that the figure is higher given that not everybody reports tech support scams.
  • In the Netherlands, one customer lost $108,000 from their bank account following a tech-support scam.
  • On average losses ranged from between $200 and $400 for each incident.
  • In March of this year the FBI said it received 11,000 tech-support fraud complaints in 2017 with claimed losses totalling close to $15 million.

Clearly the tech support scammers are still hard at it. However, they’ve moved beyond claiming to be from Microsoft to now claiming to be from printer companies, internet service providers and others.

At the same time the scammers are not restricting themselves to cold telephone calls, rather they are reaching victims through:
  • Pop-up messages and browser lockers designed to closely resemble a pop-up notification from Microsoft Official Support.
  • The pop-ups and locker contains a message telling users that their computer has been ‘blocked, and that the only way to unblock it would be to call a specific phone number.
  • Phishing emails with bogus warnings about fraudulent bank charges or fake refunds

Sometimes the scammers are targeting victims of past tech-support scams and claiming to be government officials or law enforcement and offering assistance recovering lost funds for further fees.

Some scammers also threaten legal action if victims don't pay to settle outstanding debts for tech-support services.
  • Their ultimate aim is to gain remote access to a computer.
  • Once they have achieved this they are often downloading personal information and using it to request bank transfers or to open new accounts to make fraudulent payments.

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How to spot a fake tech support scam

There are a number of easy-to-spot signs for a tech support scam:
  • They call you
This is the biggest sign that a scam is taking place. Tech support organisations won’t call you; they know you will call them. The scammers will tell you they are doing a ‘public service’. It’s nonsense, don’t buy into it.
  • Thick foreign accent with a Western name
The scammer often has an extremely thick foreign accent, but will claim that their name is something very western such as Michael or David. More likely they will be Sucha, Tanveer or Harinder.
  • The caller ID Says Microsoft Tech Support or something similar
If you’ve got caller ID on your phone the call may appear legitimate with the company name popping up. However, spoofing caller ID information is extremely easy via Voice over IP technology. Remember a legitimate tech support team won’t call you. They’re in business to take your calls.
  • Security scares
This is a common tactic. The scammer claims that your computer is ‘sending errors’ or sending out spam or that a new virus has been detected on your computer. Don’t believe it. The scammer is trying to scare you into letting them onto your computer.
  • Go to a website and install a tool
The scammers want to get into your computer so they might ask you to go to a website to install a remote scanning tool. However, they just want to infect your computer with malware, rootkits, key loggers and so on under the guise of accessing your computer.

These tricks are evolving all the time so you might come across variations of them.
  • The golden rule is to remember that legitimate tech support will never call you; it’s up to you to call them. That’s how they are set up.

For instance BullGuard Tech English Support is available 24/7 and also available in other countries and languages. But BullGuard Tech Support will never call you; rather it’s up the customer to call support with issues they may be facing. This is how all tech support operations function.