One of the most common ways in which people unknowingly fall victim to cyber-crime is through computer-related phone scams. According to the most recently available United States Census Bureau data, 75.6 percent of Americans had household computers in 2011. With the population of the U.S. approaching 319 million, there are approximately 241 million potential victims of illegitimate offers to restore and fix computer software issues.
During my time answering public phones at Better Business Bureau I have heard a plethora of stories involving the infamous “tech support” scam, where various technology “support groups” claim to offer fixes for computer malware problems. Don’t be someone who takes the bait!
Reports to BBB indicate that the unsolicited callers mostly claim to be affiliated with Microsoft, while others claim affiliation with Windows Corporation or similar well-known technology companies. However, the callers are not associated with any corporation and they are simply seeking remote access to computers in the hopes of obtaining personal information for identity theft purposes; sometimes, callers require “fees” for their services and ask for prepaid money cards or money transfers. One Washington State man lost more than $10,000 to an illegitimate Microsoft Tech Support offer in 2013.
Of course, the obvious question is: How does a random caller know that my computer has a virus? That question leads to an obvious answer: He doesn’t!
Unfortunately, anti-virus software is no guarantee and it is relatively easy for viruses and malware to end up on computers. BBB recommends having computers checked by legitimate companies if problems arise.