Not all online scams are initiated through your Internet connection, as scammers are always looking for new, innovative ways to trick victims into putting themselves at risk.
Dubbed the “tech support scam”, “Microsoft technical support scam” or “Windows technical support scam”, this scam is first initiated by a simple telephone call.
Upon answering the call, the victim is told that they are speaking to an IT technician, often (but not always) claiming that they are from [or representing] Microsoft, and that there is a virus (or other form of malware) on the victims computer that urgently needs to be removed.
Whilst the exact ‘script’ of the scam varies, it essentially relies on the victim then being told by the “IT technician” that the malware needs to be removed, and that they need to follow instructions given to them over the phone.
In more comprehensive versions of this scam, the victim is instructed to carry out various commands on their computer that result in a list of files or folders being displayed. Despite being harmless and indeed completely normal files, the scammer tricks the victim by informing them that these files are ‘dangerous’, thus creating an illusion of legitimacy to their scam as well as gaining the trust of their less technically inclined victim.
The end game of the scam is to trick the victim into installing dangerous software onto their computer whilst simultaneously making the victim believe that they are fixing their computer.
If the scam is successful, the victim has installed – or aided in the installation – of malware onto their own machine.
At this point any number of different scams can begin. The malware can be used to trick the victim into handing over sensitive information like online banking information, it can be used to spy on the victims activities, it can encrypt their personal files and demand a ransom to get them back, or it can be used to help the scammer control the victims computer by turning it into what is known as a “drone” on a botnet (a network of infected computers.)
Alternatively if could pose as legitimate antivirus software to lure victims into paying for “premium support” by reporting false threats.
How to avoid technical support scams…
Microsoft or other software companies are extremely unlikely to call you out of the blue, and as such any unsoliticed calls should be treated with extreme caution.
Don’t trust any unexpected call that seems to take on this template and certainly never comply with anyone you don;t trust that wants you to carry out instructions on your computer. And as always, if in doubt, get help from someone in the know.
Also, remember to keep your computer safe from infection, you need up-to-date, quality security software installed.