Investigating A Tech Support Scam – Part 4: How To Avoid Getting Scammed

In part one of this investigation I dealt with the initial threat. In part two I tracked down the scammers and I unwrapped what these scammers were up to in part three. Now I will tell you how to avoid a scam like this.

Here’s the big hint that this is a scam. The scammers will likely be pretending they are calling from Microsoft or from “Windows,” “Windows Tech Support” or “Windows Service Center.” or even your ISP.

Fact: A legitimate company such as Microsoft, Apple, or Google would never call you in this manner. The exception might be your ISP. There’s a minute possibility that your ISP would call you if your computer has been infected with malware that could be sending out something from your computer. If a caller claims to be from your ISP, ask for the caller’s name, where his or her office is located, and for the office telephone number. Ask why you’re being contacted by telephone, what the issue with your computer is and how the ISP could tell it was your PC specifically that had a problem. If a call sounds legit, hang up and call the ISP yourself, then ask for the tech support department or for the person who called you specifically. Use a phone number listed on your ISP’s website or on your bill, not a number that the caller gave you. That way, you could confirm or deny if this is legit.

Now, if you get a call from a scammer. The best way to deal with them is to hang up. But if you want to do the world a favor, do the following….. Though I will not exactly go out of my way to recommend vigilante behavior like this:

  1. The name of the company the scammer claims to work for, and the company’s website, phone number or address. Even the smallest pieces of info can lead one down the road of finding out who the scammers are and you’d be surprised how willing they are to give up this information to try and gain your confidence.
  2. Hang up.
  3. Report it. Microsoft has a Web page dedicated to reporting tech-support scams. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has a website for fielding complaints, while the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center is the place to go if you’re in Canada.

So, what happens if you get scammed? You need to act fast. First, shut down the computer. Then do this:

  1. First download and install legitimate antivirus software. Then, run a scan to see if anything has been left behind. Then change the passwords on the user accounts on your PC. You don’t have passwords on the user accounts? You should precisely for this reason. If you don’t feel comfortable doing any of these items, call an IT expert for help.
  2. If you gave the scammer your credit card number, then you really need to act fast. Call your credit card provider and either reverse the charges or cancel the card (my client did the latter).  Then you should also contact one of the three credit-reporting agencies. Namely Equifax, Experian or TransUnion and ask them to place a free 90-day credit alert on your file. For the record, Experian doesn’t operate in Canada but the other two do. The agency you contact will alert the others and you’ll be notified if someone tries to do something in your name.
  3. Report it.

As you can see, getting hit by a scammer is not a trivial matter. You need to be on your toes to avoid this sort of thing. If you are, then you should never have to worry about the negative effects of being scammed. I’ve documented what People Connect Inc. were up to in this case, but there are lots of others who are just as evil. I hope this information helps to make sure that you are not a victim of something like this.

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