SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson is warning consumers that phone scammers posing as legitimate computer technicians are on the prowl in Washington and other states across the country.
“These scammers claim to be calling to help resolve problems that have been detected on the consumer’s personal computer, such as harmful viruses or malware,” warned Ferguson. “What they really want is access to your computer and, ultimately, your money.”
The phone scammers hunt for victims by “cold-calling” numbers they find in telephone directories and other public resources. The Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office has received numerous complaints in recent months from consumers who have received these calls.
How the scam works
The “tech support” scam exploits consumer concerns about computer and online security.
The callers attempt to gain your trust with a fake identity and a barrage of technical language, saying that a problem has been detected on your computer.
They may ask you to perform a series of tasks that cause you to unknowingly allow the cyber criminals remote access to your PC and the personal data stored on it. You may also be tricked into installing malware that could steal your personal information.
The callers then claim to have identified the problem and demand payment to fix it with software updates, warranty extensions and other solutions. They offer to accept credit card payments over the phone, and may request payments via Western Union or Money Gram or direct the victims to fraudulent websites set up to collect personal and financial information.
“As with all scams, prevention is the best protection for consumers,” Ferguson said. “Don’t ever give any caller access to your computer, no matter who they say they are. Instead, hang-up!”
How to avoid the scam
The Attorney General’s Office offers tips on how to avoid this and other scams:
• Never give control of your computer to someone who calls you;
• Be vigilant in safeguarding personal information;
• Never give out passwords;
• Protect personal computers with legitimate and updated security software;
• Do not provide SSNs, banking, or credit card or other financial information to anyone who calls, no matter who they say they are; and
Consumers who suspect they may have been victimized should:
• Have a reputable computer technician remove any software that may have been added by the scammers;
• Change passwords;
• Contact your financial institution; and
• Monitor bank and credit card account activity.
The Attorney General’s Office also encourages anyone who receives such a call to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Visit this page of the FTC’s website for extensive information on the “tech support” scam, including how to file a complaint.
For additional internet safety tips, advice and information visit the Attorney General's website, here.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Alison Dempsey-Hall, Acting Communications Director