A new study by Better Business Bureau finds it’s not a matter of if you will become a target of computer technical support scammers, but when these scammers will try to victimize you.
Thieves, most of whom are located in India, are using sophisticated advertising and carefully crafted sales techniques to scare consumers into buying phoney fixes for their home and business computers. BBB warns consumers to remain on guard so they can combat these fraudsters.
The report, “Pop-Ups and Impostors: A Better Business Bureau Study of the Growing Worldwide Problem of Computer Tech Support Scams,” says that anyone who owns or uses a computer is a potential target. Complaints about the fraud continue to mount as Microsoft, a software company whose name is routinely used by the scammers, reports it receives more than 12,000 complaints worldwide every month.
The report recommends a tougher, more-coordinated effort by U.S. law enforcement, including the filing of civil and criminal cases against the scammers. It urges law enforcement in India and other foreign countries where the scammers originate to make computer tech fraud a high priority. It also asks search engine companies to carefully vet, set strict standards and consider eliminating sponsored links for tech support firms that do not meet standards.
“This has been a problem for years,” says Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for BBB serving Mainland BC. “Scammers use the names of any and all big tech companies from Microsoft to Norton to Dell. First and foremost, these companies do not contact you if you have a problem with your computer. Another easy way to know you’re being targeted is the scammers are now asking for payment in Bitcoin.”
* Consumers typically are lured into the scheme by four ways — by either a pop-up ad on their computer; an unsolicited phone call from a “technician” claiming to have detected problems with the user’s computer; via ransomware attached to an email; or by Internet searches for technical support on sponsored links.
The report was prepared by C. Steven Baker, BBB International Investigations Specialist. Baker is the retired director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Midwest Region.