Tech Support Scams Unmasked: Stay Safe Online with These Expert Tips

Technology plays a significant role in our lives. From smartphones to laptops, we rely on these devices for communication, work, and entertainment. However, along with the benefits of technology come risks, one of which is tech support scams. In this blog post, we’ll explore what these scams are, how they work, and most importantly, how you can protect yourself.

What Are Tech Support Scams?

Tech support scams are schemes designed to trick people into believing their computer or device has a problem that requires technical support. Scammers often use various tactics, such as pop-up messages, cold calls, or emails, to reach potential victims. These messages typically claim that the user’s device is infected with a virus, has security issues, or is experiencing other technical problems.

How Do Tech Support Scams Work?

Tech support scammers employ different methods to deceive their targets. One common tactic is the use of alarming pop-up messages that claim to be from reputable tech companies like Microsoft or Apple. These pop-ups often display fake error messages and urge users to call a provided phone number for assistance.

Once victims call the number, they are connected to the scammers posing as tech support agents. The scammers may then instruct victims to download malicious software or grant remote access to their devices. In some cases, scammers demand payment for their supposed services, adding a financial element to the scam.

Protecting Yourself from Tech Support Scams

  • Be Skeptical of Unsolicited Messages: If you receive a pop-up message, email, or phone call claiming to be from tech support, be cautious, especially if you didn’t initiate contact. Microsoft and other companies are never going to call you and legitimate warnings and numbers will not have a phone call.
  • Verify the Source: Legitimate tech companies typically don’t reach out to customers unsolicited. If you’re unsure about the legitimacy of a message or call, contact the company directly through official channels to confirm.
  • Don’t Grant Remote Access: Never give control of your computer or device to someone you don’t trust. Legitimate tech support representatives won’t ask for remote access without your explicit consent.
  • Use Reputable Security Software: Install and regularly update reputable antivirus and antimalware software on your devices to help detect and prevent tech support scams and other threats.
  • Educate Yourself and Others: Stay informed about common scams and share your knowledge with friends and family. Awareness is key to avoiding falling victim to scams.

What to Do If Your Screen Is Locked

In some cases, tech support scammers may attempt to lock your screen, preventing you from accessing your device. If you encounter a locked screen as a result of a tech support scam, here’s what you can do:

  • Ctrl+Alt+Delete: Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete on your keyboard to bring up a menu of options. From there, you can select “Task Manager” to access a list of running applications and processes.
  • End Suspicious Processes: In the Task Manager, look for any processes that seem suspicious or unfamiliar, especially those associated with the browser or any remote access software that may have been installed by the scammers. Select the suspicious processes and choose “End Task” to terminate them.
  • Restart Your Device: After ending any suspicious processes, restart your computer or device to clear out any remaining malicious software or scripts that may be causing the lock screen. Once your device restarts, avoid returning to the website or page that triggered the lock.
  By using Ctrl+Alt+Delete to access the Task Manager, you can regain control of your device and terminate any malicious processes that may be responsible for the locked screen. This action can help you prevent further manipulation by the scammers and protect your device and personal information from harm. If you’re unable to resolve the issue on your own, seek assistance from a reputable tech support professional or visit an authorized service center for help.

What to Do If You've Already Called and Given Access

If you’ve already fallen victim to a tech support scam and provided the scammers with access to your device, it’s essential to take immediate action to minimize the potential damage.

  • Disconnect from the Internet: If you suspect that you’ve been scammed, disconnect your device from the internet immediately. This action can help prevent scammers from accessing further information or causing additional harm to your device.
  • Do Not Shut Down Your Device: Turning off your computer or device will halt any ongoing remote access by the scammers but also has the added problem of removing any evidence that an IT forensic expect can use to see exactly what was going on. 
  • Change Your Passwords: If you provided any sensitive information or passwords to the scammers, change your passwords for all your accounts immediately. This includes email, banking, social media, and any other online accounts you may have.
  • Scan Your Device for Malware: Use reputable antivirus and antimalware software to scan your device for any malicious software or files that may have been installed by the scammers. Remove any detected threats to ensure the security of your device.
  • Contact Your Financial Institution: If you provided payment information to the scammers, contact your bank or credit card company to report the fraudulent activity. They can help monitor your accounts for any unauthorized transactions and take steps to protect your financial information.
  • Report the Scam: Report the tech support scam to the appropriate authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or your country’s consumer protection agency. Providing details about your experience can help authorities track down and take action against the scammers.
  • Seek Professional Assistance: If you’re unsure how to proceed or need help addressing any potential security concerns, consider seeking assistance from a reputable tech support professional or cybersecurity expert. They can assess the situation and provide guidance on how to secure your device and protect your information.

Tech support scams are a serious threat that can result in financial loss, identity theft, and other forms of harm. However, by staying informed, remaining vigilant, and taking proactive measures to protect yourself, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams. If you’ve already been targeted by a tech support scam, don’t panic. Follow the steps outlined above to mitigate the potential impact and take back control of your device and personal information. Remember, it’s never too late to take action and protect yourself from online threats. Stay safe, stay vigilant, and stay informed.