More consumers are being victimized at an alarming rate by fraudulent pop-up messages that warn computer users of a purported virus infection or urgently needed repair.
The Tech Support Scam has cost computer users worldwide an estimated $1.5 billion, according to a study by Microsoft. The Federal Trade Commission and federal, state and international partners this month launched “Operation Tech Trap,” a major crackdown on tech support scammers.
While fraudsters execute the Tech Support Scam via telephone or email, they increasingly are utilizing computer pop-up ads. Appearing as if it originated from Apple, Microsoft or another technology company, the frightening pop-up informs a targeted person that a virus or some other security problem has been detected on the victim’s computer. Once you call the provided “helpline” number, the scammers may:
• Ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then make changes to your settings that could leave your computer vulnerable;
• Try to enroll you in a worthless computer maintenance or warranty program;
• Ask for credit card information so they can bill you for phony services – or services you could get elsewhere for free;
• Trick you into installing malware that could steal sensitive data, like usernames and passwords; and
• Direct you to websites and ask you to enter your credit card number and other personal information.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network has launched a major campaign to raise awareness of the “Tech Support Scam” along with a booklet co-published by AARP and Microsoft, “Avoiding Tech Support Scams.”