In early May 2017, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other regulators announced “Operation Tech Trap”, a nationwide and international crackdown on tech-support scams. According to the FTC, more than $24.6 million has been lost to tech-support scams alone in the past two years. Break that amount down, a typical consumer is losing approximately $280.
How Do They Do It?
Tom Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, explains that “Tech-support scammers create an artificial emergency.” The next step in the scam, he says, occurs when your computer screen flashes a threatening message such as, “Your hard drive will be deleted if you close this page.”
Consumers still fall victim to phone calls from a random individual claiming to be Microsoft. However, the number of phony pop-up messages on computer screens are increasing rapidly. The goal of the scammer is for the consumer to respond to the pop-up by calling a toll-free number for “assistance”. The telemarketer then pressures the individual to buy unnecessary repair services, service plans, anti-virus protection or software, and worthless warranty programs.
How are so many scammers getting away with this fraud? These pop-up alerts warning of suspicious activity look very authentic. Many times, they claim to be from well-known, trusted companies like Microsoft, Apple or Dell. According to a 2016 Microsoft survey, millennials ages 18 to 24 are more likely than baby boomers to be tricked by these online pop-up ads related to tech-support scams.
Frank Abagnale, a security consultant and expert on identity theft, says, “It’s really not an age thing. It’s more about just being naïve about what’s going on.”
So, what’s the best way to avoid these tech-support scams? Simple.
- Avoid clicking on links in emails.
- If you receive a pop-up message trying to redirect you to call tech support, ignore it.
- Never call a number provided via a pop-up warning of a computer problem.
- Don’t agree to give control of your computer to anyone connected to a pop-up.
- Never send money.
Unfortunately for legitimate tech-support companies, these scammers have made it difficult to secure the merchant account these business’ need to operate smoothly. To offer a solution to this problem, high risk specialists like eMerchantBroker offer services specifically tailored to meet this industries’ needs through a tech support merchant account. Protect your business and take control of your tech support payment processing services – your customers will thank you for it.