Consumer Protection

How to Protect Yourself: Tech Support Scams

Source: The Florida Attorney General's Office


Tech support scams often begin with fraudulent pop-up ads claiming a computer is infected with a virus or malware that can be eliminated by calling the tech support number on the ad. The ad may cause fear that the computer’s data will be lost or stolen if the virus remains. The number listed on the pop-up will connect the caller to a scammer who attempts to take remote control of the computer. The scammer will, often fraudulently, show the caller a number of “viruses” and “malware” that must be removed. They then offer to remove the virus or malware for a fee and offer costly software updates and anti-virus services. These scammers often target seniors, and victims will often follow the instructions, pay the fees and never realize they were swindled.

In other iterations, a consumer will receive a call from someone claiming to be tech support for Microsoft or Apple. The scammer will then attempt to do the same, taking remote access and charging a fee to rid the consumer’s computer of non-existent viruses or malware.

Beware of anyone seeking remote access to your computer.

Remote access allows an individual full access to everything on your computer. While remote access is a tool that legitimate technical support providers use, be cautious of anyone seeking remote access, particularly via an unsolicited phone call or in response to an online pop-up.

Do not click the ‘X’ to close a pop-up.

If you are browsing on the internet and get a pop-up window, warning you that your computer is infected or there is an “error,” do not click on the “X” to close out the Pop-Up. Press Control Alt Delete simultaneously and use the Task Manager to close out the pop-up window. Some scammer may embed a link into the ‘X’ in a pop-up ad that opens more pop-ups or downloads a malicious program.

Seek out a legitimate tech support business.

If you have concerns about your computer’s effectiveness or safety, reach out to a legitimate technical support company. Consider seeking out a brick-and-mortar computer repair business in your area or seeking recommendations from an electronics store in your area. Know that online search results might not be the best way to find technical support or get a company’s contact information. Scammers sometimes pay to boost their ranking in search results so their websites and phone numbers appear above those of legitimate companies.

File a complaint.

If you believe you are the victim of an imposter scam, file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online at www.myfloridalegal.com or by phone at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.

You may also file a complaint with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which acts as the State's consumer complaint clearinghouse, at www.floridaconsumerhelp.com.