In the Halloween spirit, I wanted to address what’s frightened some of my clients over the past few years: the “tech support” scam. It comes in two forms: a phone call, or a pop-up box on your computer screen.
Most commonly, this comes in the form of a phone call claiming to be from Microsoft, or even just “Windows,” or “Tech Support.” My advice is to err on the side of not believing them. The simple fact is that no computer company will ever call you unsolicited, no matter what shape your computer is in.
If you have any doubts, here is the actual number for Microsoft phone support: 1-866-425-4709. You can say to the scammer who’s called you, “Oh, thank goodness for your call, but I can’t talk right now. I’ll call Microsoft right back. I have the number.” Warning: they may curse you out or even threaten you, but remember that their phone center is likely on the other side of the globe. You can also just hang up, per the advice on this page: “What Should You Do About the Windows Tech Support Scam?”
Microsoft even now has a page to report a support scam: https://www.microsoft.com/en-US/reportascam//
If they don’t say they’re Microsoft per se, here are the support numbers for some of the major PC manufacturers. Write yours down or print it, so you have the number handy:
Apple: 800-APL–CARE (800–275–2273)
Samsung: 800-SAMSUNG (800-726-7864)
If your brand isn’t on this list, or if the number I’ve provided doesn’t work, please contact me so I can update the list.
Here’s one more resource, from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0346-tech-support-scams
A phone call is a nuisance, but when you know it’s a scam, it’s easy to end or ignore. A pop-up is more challenging, as, depending on the severity, it can interfere with your ability to use your computer altogether.
You can read about the various pop-up scams here: https://malwaretips.com/blogs/remove-tech-support-scam-popups/
In some cases, the pop-up is just a nuisance on your web browser resolved by quitting the browser and cleaning out your cache. You can refresh your cache following the steps here: http://www.refreshyourcache.com/en/home/
If it goes away but you’re still concerned, I recommend running your antivirus/anti-malware program of choice. On my Mac, I use BitDefender Virus Scanner. Mac users can download it for free here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bitdefender-virus-scanner/id500154009?mt=12
In Windows, I regularly update and run MalwareBytes Anti-Malware, available for free download here: https://www.malwarebytes.com/mwb-download/thankyou/
If it comes back, follow the steps on the page I linked earlier: https://malwaretips.com/blogs/remove-tech-support-scam-popups/
Mac users have a similar procedure here: https://discussions.apple.com/docs/DOC-8071
You can also reach out to the FTC and file a complaint here: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend calling a tech support provider you know and trust. I take comfort knowing that my clients know to call At Home With Technology first, before calling any other phone number they see.
Because it’s only fun to be scared when you want to be.