A recent press release from the Department of Justice announced the largest-ever nationwide sweep of fraudsters targeting the nation's seniors.
The sweep targeted over 260 fraudsters and accounted for approximately $750 million. The DOJ's press release explained that this sweep includes 13 percent more criminals, and 28 percent more money, than last year's sweep. And while some of the same old scams were utilized, one of those scams, dubbed the tech support scam, is as scary as they come, and the DOJ had found that it was increasingly being used to target seniors.
Tech Support Scam
The tech support scam is one that everybody, and particularly seniors, need to be aware of. The scammers pretend to be tech support people trying to help you with some problem with your computer. In one of the more common iterations of the scam, as part of their "job" to provide you tech support, they ask you to install software or go to a website so they can help you. The next part is where it gets scary ...
After you've installed the software, or navigated to the website they directed you to (which will probably automatically install the software they need, though you may need to click a button or two to do so), the scammers will then be able to control your computer remotely. This will enable them to download the contents of your entire computer, regardless of encryption, firewalls, or most cybersecurity protections. Additionally, while they have control, they can likely install something nefarious, like a keylogger, to ensure that they get all your passwords.
How to Avoid the Tech Support Scam
For individuals who might fall victim to the tech support scam, it is important to know how to spot and avoid it.
First off, unless you have requested a call from tech support, you should verify that a call saying you need it is legitimate. Next, you should not grant anyone you do not know access to your computer remotely. While many legitimate tech support pros do in fact do this, you should know the person and trust them before you ever allow it.
If you do in fact realize that you have fallen victim to this scam and the scammer is active on your machine right now, turn off your internet by unplugging your modem, then contact the authorities.