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By Ashleigh, K-Staff
No, they aren’t.
So much of our lives are accessible on our computers and devices. For many older generations, that technology remains a somewhat of a mystery, making them particularly vulnerable to this scam. Tech support scams are extremely popular, and they hit older generations harder than any other type of scam, according to the FTC. Adults over the age of 60, who may be less tech savvy than younger generations, were five times more likely to be a victim of a tech scam in 2018, according to the FTC. In 2018, these scams cost Americans $55 million, and the median loss was $400. Those are numbers are just from reported cases of fraud; untold numbers may have been victims without realizing that the entire interaction was a sham.
The tech support scam begins with a pop-up in a browser or a direct contact via e-mail, text or phone call that informs the target of a problem with their computer or device, similar to the Apple Support scam. The problem is entirely fabricated, and the thief will, at best, attempt to get the target to pay money for the “repair” or for bogus warranties.
At worst, the thief will guide the victim to click links, turn over passwords, and information. Some even get the victim to provide remote desktop access in order to “troubleshoot” the imaginary issue. Once inside the victim’s computer, a thief can quietly install malware, spyware, or log into sensitive websites that have saved passwords. Kevin Mitchell, Security and Fraud Specialist at Kirtland FCU says this scam is common.
Mitchell says scammers routinely use fear as a tactic. Bright flashing boxes proclaiming that your phone or computer will soon stop working certainly inspire worry, and many will click as a result.
Tech support scams work because technology can be confusing, and we’re quick to rely on experts to assist us when we feel out of our depth. To protect yourself from tech scammers, remember:
Mitchell recalls a story of a woman who had given remote access of her computer over to a scammer. The thief used her saved passwords to break into her Online Banking and start moving money around.
If you think you may have become a victim of this scam, the best course of action is to immediately disconnect your computer from the internet by shutting off WiFi or unplugging the ethernet cord, says Mitchell. Then, take your computer to a legitimate repair facility to have it checked out and reset if necessary.
Make sure you notify any credit union, financial institution, credit card company, or other business that you may have had access to through your computer. Changing your passwords is a good idea as well.
The tech scam is very common, so always be on the lookout.