Be wary of phony tech support schemes

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — An old scheme involving technical support for computers is resurfacing, and thousands of unsuspected customers are falling for it.

Call 12 for Action reported on tech support schemes last year when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched a major international crackdown. But now they’re resurfacing again, and conning customers into believing they can fix their computers for a fee.

Sandra Seip received several late-night phone calls from a woman claiming to be Windows tech support, telling her that someone was trying to hack into her computer. The woman wasn’t lying about the second part, but she was actually the one doing the hacking. She guided Seip to a website that gave the schemer remote access to her computer.

Seip said she hung up, but the computer went black. The next morning she tried to log in, but had no luck.

Seip then called a legitimate computer repair company and left them a message to call back, so when the phone rang – she assumed it was the computer company. Turns out it was the schemers again, and they charged her more than $300 for supposed scans of her computer. In the end, her screen was dark and her computer didn’t work.

“It should always be a red flag if a tech support company is contacting you through the phone, through an unsolicited phone call, claiming there’s an issue with your computer,” said Caitlin Vancas from the Better Business Bureau.

The FTC and BBB said they’ve been getting more calls recently about this type of scheme. If you get a call out of the blue, don’t give control to your computer. Also, don’t rely on caller ID alone to authenticate a caller, since criminals have ways of spoofing the device.

Beware of online search results for technical support, because schemers sometimes put fake advertisements on websites.

Seip has since had her computer fixed, and her credit card company is even forgiving the charges for the phony computer scans. However, the whole process took several frustrating weeks to sort out.

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