It's a sad sign of the times, that all of us have to be on guard 24/7 against scam artists trying new and creative ways to trick us into giving them our personal info, or access to our money. Now, scammers have come up with a new spin on a common computer repair scam.
You've probably heard how it usually works. Someone calls you and tells you something is wrong with your computer. They may claim to be with a reputable business and offer to help you fix the problem. Most of the time, there is no problem with your computer. The whole call is a ruse to get access to your computer or to get some of your personal information.
The new spin on this old trick involved fake websites. Scammers are setting up sites that will pop up if you are searching for the customer service site for companies like Netflix or AOL. This new wrinkle is even more disturbing because it targets people who are experiencing a real problem of some kind, and they're actually looking for help. Unfortunately, if you click on the fake site, you could be in for a world of hurt!
One Woman's Story
Linda Harper, a business owner in Maryland, told NBC News she was the victim of a tech support scam. She says the scammers convinced her to give them control of her home computer, and they ended up taking nearly $2,500 from her bank account.
NBC News reports that variations on the scam have been around for years, usually with the criminals cold calling customers. A version of the Netflix-themed scam popped up a few weeks ago using phishing emails. The search engine ads are a new twist. The scammers can sit back and wait for the victims to call them.
Google and Bing say they battle fake ads every day. "We have an extensive process for monitoring the Bing Ads network against known fraudulent patterns to help detect, prevent and mitigate fraud and phishing techniques," David Gottlieb, a Bing Ads group program manager, told NBC. "Microsoft will take immediate action to mitigate the activity by blocking the bad actor from our system and where possible not attempt to collect money from the fraudster."
Scam victim Linda Harper was able to get her bank to recover her funds and her computer fixed, but that happened after a lot of stress and frustration.
These Guidelines Work Against Scammers
Ruth to the Rescue can't offer advice specific to every scam scenario that you might encounter. However, if you remember these general guidelines, they should help.
1) Always be suspicious of someone cold calling you about any kind of problem. (Computer, bank account, jury duty, outstanding warrant)
2) Listen to what they're saying, ask for a contact number and hang up before taking any action. If by some chance the nightmare scenario is true, any legitimate organization will give you time to verify the claims and respond. Only scammers employ high-pressure tactics demanding immediate payment.
3) Never be afraid to hang up if they person gets too pushy, and take time to verify their claims.
4) Never give control of your computer to anyone who isn't recommended to you, or isn't someone you can verify is connected with a legitimate organization.
5) To verify any stories or offers, call the company or agency by the legitimate phone number you find through a trustworthy source.
6) Know the difference between sponsored search engine ads and actual search engine results.
7) Be suspicious of any tech support company that tells you what's wrong with your computer before they've even asked you any questions.