Tag Archives: Phishing

Tech Support Scams: What You Need To Know To Protect Yourself

Computer scams come in all forms

Tech scams are more common than ever before. Scammers send millions of emails every day, pretending to be from technical support services, government offices, charities or insurance companies. They promise to send lottery winnings, offers that are too good to be true, or sales on products that will never arrive once ordered. Scammers can take advantage of people even if the target doesn’t take the bait. Thieves send emails containing malware, spyware or viruses that infect the computer when they are opened. Antivirus software may be unable to detect infected files, such as certain trojan viruses. The user doesn’t know their system has been breached. Scammers can take control of your computer, steal phone numbers, personal data, and other sensitive financial information such as credit card numbers, bank account information, and more.

Forms of Contact

Con artists use a variety of methods to conduct tech support scams. Scammers contact targets through unsolicited phone calls, text messages, email, and pop up ads. If you receive calls or texts from someone you don’t know, you can use a caller ID app for iPhone to identify it.

Pop-up Ads

Tech scams can take place through pop-up ads that appear during regular use of your web browser. The pop-up is often an unrelated topic or item that encourages you to click on the website. Pop-ups may appear to be system error messages or warnings from tech companies like Microsoft or Apple. The pop-ups can infect your system. Others simply do not go away and efforts to report them go unheard. The ads may also be able to infect your system with viruses undetectable by antivirus programs. Web browsers offer free pop-up or ad blockers which can help the situation.

Scare Tactics

Scammers can feed on a consumers’ fear by alerting them to security breaches, viruses, or useless software programs for malware and spyware. Recent scams include emails sent to users, claiming that the scammer has your personal information. The sender says he has access to your password and online accounts. The emails may contain passwords to your email account. The sender demands a specific amount of money that must be sent in 24-48 hours. The scare tactic is effective, as people want to safeguard their personal information. Emails making such claims should be reported, passwords should be changed, and the email deleted entirely from the system.

Tech Support Scams

You receive a call from someone claiming to be from computer tech support from real tech companies like Microsoft or Apple. The caller, posing as an employee with Microsoft or Apple, says there is a problem with your computer, e.g., a virus or damaged memory. The scammer offers to fix the problem for a small fee. You are asked to wire money or pay with a gift card. They ask for those because it is almost impossible to trace or get your money back. The funds must be delivered to a specific email or online account, neither of which are related to Microsoft or Apple.

The caller offers to run a scan if you give them remote access. If you agree, the scammer pretends to run a scan on your computer and then tells you about a problem that isn’t real. The problem is significant and will cause your computer to fail. The caller offers to fix the problem for an additional cost.

Tech Support Refund Scams

A similar tech scam is a tech support refund scam. The caller offers a refund for services previously purchased. They claim the company is offering refunds as part of a customer satisfaction program. Other claims include that the company is going out of business. Regardless of the story, there are no refunds. The caller asks for your phone number, personal data, and banking information for the sole purpose of phishing and stealing more money.

Online Shopping

The person or company offers products at a low rate. The scammer takes the money, but the product never arrives. The company refuses to give refunds. More likely, the scammer steals the person’s information and credit card or bank account info and disappears.

Phone Calls

Scammers make thousands if not hundreds of thousands of random phone calls every day. There is no limit to the stories they will tell. Legitimate companies do not call to ask for payment for tech support or alert you to a government issue. If you do receive a call, use a reverse phone search to look up the number that called you. Block the number that was used. You should also write it down so it can be reported to the authorities.

Improve Security

Thieves love weak passwords. Change passwords often or create a password using a password generator to improve your computer’s security. You should update security software and antivirus software on a regular basis.

What to Do If You Were Scammed

People tricked by tech support scammers have recourse if the con was paid by credit card or bank card. The financial institution can reverse the charges and file a fraud report on your behalf.

Gift cards are harder to trace and may not be refundable.

If you gave a scammer remote access to your computer, update your computer’s security software. Run a scan and delete anything it identifies as a problem.

If you gave your username and password to a tech support scammer, change your password right away. If you use the same password for other accounts or sites, change it there, too. Create a new password that is strong.

Reporting a Scam

The Federal Trade Commission has recorded one of the calls made by a computer tech support fraudster. The FTC has posted a  recorded call from a scammer: You can listen here.

Tech support scams are commonplace. In 2017, the FTC received over 150,000 reports about tech scams. Consumers neglect to report scams because they are embarrassed or they may not know they’ve been scammed. If you think you’ve been the target of a tech scam, report it online to the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant.

Avoiding IRS Phone Scams

Internal Revenue Service

Tax season may be over, but IRS scams are still in full force. The Internal Revenue Service has announced a “new twist” on IRS phone scams. Criminals call unsuspecting targets and claim to work for the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Callers use a spoofed phone number from a TAS office located in Houston or Brooklyn. They may use robocalls, requesting a callback. When the person calls the fake office, they will be asked to provide their individual taxpayer identification number or Social Security number.

Who Is the TAS?

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization that operated within the IRS. They provide help to people facing an issue with the IRS such as issues filing a return, tax debt or problems working with the system. People seeking information from the TAS are directed to call the organization directly; the TAS does not initiate calls to taxpayers offering services.

The Scam

“Representatives” inform their victims that they owe taxes and must pay immediately or lose their driver’s license or face jail time. The caller, who is typically hostile or even abusive, demands payment through a pre-paid debit card or a wire transfer. The scammers take it one step further by placing a second call, supposedly from a law enforcement agency or Department of Motor Vehicles. If the victim uses an app for unknown number look ups, he will find that the number has been spoofed to match the organization’s official number.

There is a variation on the scam. The con artist may try to trick the person into believing he has a large refund due, but must provide personal information to receive it.

Other Tactics

Scammers have developed more tactics to fool the public. They include supplying fake names and IRS badge numbers, sending bogus emails to back up their claims, mimicking the sounds of a call center, or providing the last four digits of the person’s Social Security number.

Signs It’s a Scam

The IRS publishes a list of things that they would never do with the hopes of alerting the public. For example, the IRS never calls to inform a taxpayer that he owes money, nor do they make threats or involve local law enforcement. If you receive a call, do not give out personal information, nor should you engage the caller in any way. The longer you stay on the phone, the longer the scammer thinks you may fall for the scam.

The scammers may also attempt phishing to gain information via email. They will request personal information and payment, complete with threats.

Report the Fraud

If you receive an email, do not respond and report it immediately to [email protected] (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).

To report a phone call, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484. You can also file a complaint on the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting webpage. Additionally, you should report it to the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant with “IRS Telephone Scam” as the subject.

 

Cyberstalkers and Their Victims

Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is the use of social media, phone calls, text messages, email, and other forms of technology to threaten, harass, pursue, intimidate or steal a person’s information for personal gain. For that reason, anyone who uses the Internet can be a target. Cyberstalkers are often driven by jealousy, anger, hatred, infatuation, revenge, and lust or obsession. Some might suffer from mental illness. Some cyberstalkers, known as Internet Trolls, will harass Internet users for no good reason. A cyberstalker could be a stranger, but most likely is someone the victim knows. The stalker could be an ex, someone from school, co-worker, someone with whom you’ve had an argument or fight, or even a fan or potential love interest.

The Four Types of Cyberstalkers

Cyberstalkers cause a lot of trouble for their victims with rumors, false allegations, lies, harassment, or even identity theft. Cyberstalking can include cyberbullying, which takes place between kids. Cyberstalking may also include inappropriate actions, including those of a sexual nature. Research has shown that there are four basic types of cyberstalkers. They are:

  • Vindictive: Cyberstalkers who want to get revenge or harm another person. They often engage in personal attacks;
  • Composed: Those whose want to annoy the victim;
  • Intimate: One who wants to have a relationship (friendship or love) with the victim. Therefore, cyberstalkers can turn violent if turned away;
  • Collective: A group of cyberstalkers who attack an individual or group for a specific cause.

The Harmful Result

Stalking causes a great deal of harm to the victim. It can ruin marriages, self-esteem, careers, or someone’s credit. Cyberbullies have been the cause of many children committing suicide. Obsessions can move from cyberspace to real-world stalking. Cyberstalkers may claim that they mean no harm, although what is being done may be extremely harmful and often illegal. Victims may not know they are being stalked. The stalker could use spyware or other means of tracking Internet use behind the scenes. You should increase your security if you think that you are being tracked in some way. Take extra precautions.

Precautions

Protect yourself by taking simple precautions. Regardless of how careful you are, it’s possible to become a target. However, you can avoid becoming a victim of cyberstalking, despite the method used to target you.

  • Restrict access to your computer, smartphone, and other devices. Leaving your computer open can allow hackers to alter the system and add software for tracking purposes.
  • Password protection. You should protect all devices with unique passwords to keep from being stalked. Use a web-based password vault to store passwords and change passwords often. Never use the same password for more than one program. Above all, avoid using passwords such as children’s or pets’ names or birthdays.
  • Sign out of computer programs when finished, especially on social media accounts.
  • Search your name online to see what information is available to the public. Do the same for family members.
  • Tell friends and family that you do not want your personal information on their social media accounts. Remove such info wherever possible.
  • Keep online calendars and plans private.
  • Post with care. If you post something, it is nearly impossible to take it back. This includes photographs.
  • Don’t announce travel plans or sharing where you will be on a certain date and time.
  • Use anti-virus, spyware, malware and anti-tracking software on all devices.
  • Teach children how to be smart about Internet use and to report any strange behavior immediately.
  • Don’t give out personal information such as your address, social security number, or bank information.
  • Hackers can obtain all information provided online.
  • Don’t get involved in online arguments.
  • Never open attachments from unknown sources.
  • Use screen names that are age and gender neutral.
  • Check the status of bank and credit card accounts on a regular basis.
  • Set up new emails for dating websites and social media accounts.

Cyberstalked? Now What?

If you see signs of cyberstalking, act right away. Police and other agencies often have cyber divisions that can help with the legal aspects of the crime and how to protect yourself.

  • Take suspicions seriously.
  • Report any possible illegal activity.
  • Avoid any contact with suspected cyberstalkers.
  • Record and block any email or phone numbers used to contact you with harassing messages. Use an iPhone cell phone trace app to check unknown numbers.
  • Change your account passwords.
  • Change email accounts.
  • Remove personal information on social media profiles and dating websites.
  • Reset privacy settings on all accounts and programs.
  • Delete online accounts if necessary.
  • Inform family and friends of the event.
  • Be aware of any real-life stalking activity.

In conclusion, it seems that cyberstalking is here to stay. However, if you are mindful, you can stay safe.