By Michael G. Kelly, Attorney at Law
Kelly Law and Tax
A recent article has appeared in the Arizona Republic discussing a substantial increase in Tech Support Fraud across the U.S. according to the FBI. The article stated that losses from this fraud in Arizona in just ½ of 2018 are 263% of losses in all of 2017. While this type of fraud can victimize anyone, it has been increasingly targeted at citizens over the age of 60.
The scams start with an unsolicited phone call, email or computer-screen pop-up notification from someone purporting to be a tech-support specialist who has identified a virus infecting the victim’s computer. They offer to fix the problem – which very likely doesn’t exist – FOR A FEE.
When a victim responds to a call, email or clicks on a pop-up, criminals will offer to help fix the victim’s technical issues, leading them to request remote access to the victim’s device. At that point the victim will have already paid them money.
NOTE: It is this writer’s experience that these scams are presented suddenly, while a person is working on their computer, and prevents the work from continuing until you call a number in a pop-up to get the problem “fixed.” One way to combat this problem is to press the ctrl key, then press the alt key while still holding the ctrl key down, and pressing the Delete key, while still holding the ctrl and alt keys down. This will interrupt the program and you can activate a program called “Task Manager” by clicking it on a window that comes up. You can then select the web browser you are using (Chrome, explorer, etc.) to eliminate the problem. At that point you should run any anti-spyware and anti-virus program you have and scan for problems to see if there is really anything going on and to clean up your computer.
The FBI states, anyone who is online is vulnerable to this scam, perpetrated by well-organized criminal organizations around the world looking to victimize people. Fraudulent tech support companies often will advertise their services online alongside legitimate companies, seeking to trick a victim.
With this access, scam artists can download malware to the victim’s computer, launch phishing attacks against the victim’s contacts and access the victim’s personal information such as tax returns or health records.
Criminals initiate contact with the victim and convince them to allow remote access. The FBI warns that access should never be granted to an unverified company.
According to the FBI a specific form of the fraud known as the “Fake Refund” is also becoming increasingly common. This scheme involves an offer to the victim for a refund for previous support services. The scam artist will then pretend to refund too much money to the victim’s account and ask the victim to return the difference. This kind of “refund and return” process can happen multiple times, causing the victim to potentially lose thousands of dollars.