Tech support scams: What your business needs to know

Tech support scams: What your business needs to know

If you run a small business, you might not have the budget to hire in-house IT staff. This means that when something goes wrong with your IT infrastructure, you have to rely on outside help to fix it. However, unless you're partnered with a reliable service provider, outsourcing your IT support can make you vulnerable to tech support scams. In this blog post, we'll discuss what these scams are and how you can protect your business from them.

What is a tech support scam?

A tech support scam is a type of fraud wherein scammers trick unsuspecting users into paying for unnecessary or deceptive technical support services.

What happens in a tech support scam?

In a tech support scam, fraudsters typically display fraudulent error messages on malicious websites to scare users into calling the technical support hotline on the screen. These usually imitate system messages (e.g., blue screens of death, dialog boxes) so they appear legitimate.

Scammers may also call a user directly, pretending to be technical support representatives of a reputable technology company like Microsoft, and claiming that the victim's system is infected with a virus and immediate action needs to be taken.

If the victim falls for the bait, the fraudster will ask them to install a remote access program like TeamViewer or LogMeIn to gain access to the victim’s computer. Once connected, the fraudsters will misrepresent harmless system messages as signs of problems and use technical jargon to create a sense of urgency.

Once trust is established, the victim will be asked to pay $500 or more using credit cards, gift cards, or checks. After payment is made, the scammer will pretend to fix the user’s system and make multiple unauthorized charges to the user’s credit card or bank account.

How do tech support scams affect consumers and businesses?

Microsoft’s recent Global Tech Support Scam Research report found that three out of five people have been victimized by a tech support scammer. This figure could even be higher, as some people do not realize that they have been defrauded.

Many tech support scammers in 2021 also claimed to represent reputable companies like Norton and Windows Defender. In all cases, scammers instructed victims to call a toll-free number to fix an issue the former supposedly detected.

If one of your employees falls for a tech support scam, not only will they lose a lot of money, but they also risk having sensitive company files stolen by cybercriminals.

How can you stay safe from tech support scams?

To protect yourself from tech support scams, remember that reputable technology firms will never contact you directly to provide technical support, or request personal or financial information. Any communication with these companies must be initiated by you.

Tell your employees that if they receive a call claiming their PC has a problem, they should hang up immediately and block the number if possible. Remind them to avoid clicking on links or downloading attachments from unsolicited emails. And if they encounter a tech support pop-up and they suspect that it's a scam, tell them to not dial the number and close the window immediately. If the window doesn’t close, do the following:

  • On Windows devices
    1. Right-click the Start button on your taskbar and then click Task Manager. Alternatively, press Ctrl+Shift+Esc on your keyboard.
    2. Under the Processes tab, select the web browser (e.g., Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Opera) displaying the pop-up and click End task.
  • On Macs
    1. Select Force Quit from the Apple menu in the upper-left corner of your screen or press Option+Command+Esc to open the Force Quit Applications window.
    2. Select the web browser that displayed the pop-up and click Force Quit.

If the computer is unresponsive, have your IT team or managed IT services provider restart the computer properly.

What should you do if you fall victim to a tech support scam?

The most important thing to do is to report the incident immediately to the card issuer or bank if you used your credit card to pay the scammers. This will enable the card issuer to block the card, thus preventing the scammer from using it.

If you shared a password with a scammer, change it on every account using that password. Create a unique and strong one for each. Finally, enable multifactor authentication to better protect your online accounts from cybercriminals.

Is your current tech support services provider unreliable? Go with Complete Document Solutions instead! We’ll keep your IT environment at optimal performance 24/7/365 through continuous monitoring, proactive maintenance, and fast, effective IT support. Request a complimentary network and IT assessment from us today.


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