The FBI warns that tech support scams are still popular


Posts: 8,493   +105
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In brief: Tech support scams have been around for decades, so one would imagine that most people are now aware of them. But that hasn't stopped the FBI from issuing a warning to watch out for this old trick following an increase in the number of criminals using it.

The agency's recent public service announcement notes that the FBI has observed several instances nationwide of scammers conducting computer-technical support scams. It involves the same technique that's been used for many years: victims are contacted via phone or email by someone claiming that an annual subscription service, often a computer protection plan or a warranty, is about to renew, usually at a very high cost of between $300 and $500.

Targets are told to contact the scammers to cancel the renewal and receive a full refund. Those who do are then persuaded to download remote desktop protocol software, supposedly to help the fake tech support cancel the subscription and issue a refund. Anyone who seems unsure is usually offered extra money if they comply.

Installing the software grants the scammer full access to the victim's computer. They are then told the money has been refunded and are encouraged to log into their online banking account for confirmation. If they do, the perpetrators can steal their banking username and password.

At this point, the scammers can lock the victim out of their computer or place a black screen as they conduct unauthorized wire transfers to external bank accounts. Criminals sometimes deposit money into victims' accounts "by mistake" and ask them to correct it through a victim-initiated wire transfer or by providing additional banking information, which is used to empty accounts into foreign banks and launder money.

Readers of this site aren't going to fall for tech support scams, but perpetrators know that by using legitimate-looking URLs combined with technical terms and the threat of losing a lot of money, they might be able to trick the less tech-savvy.

We've seen several high-profile scams over the last few months. The FBI put out a warning about fake crypto investment apps in July. There was also the case of criminals sending out fake Microsoft Office USB sticks, a PayPal phishing scam, and Steam users were warned of sophisticated browser-in-browser attacks.

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Posts: 19,288   +8,435
I ran into an anti virus scam running out, of all places, Google rented spaces. They were operating as a supposed 1-800- xxx-xxxx Google toll free service number The were using a legitimate RAM resident remote desktop app, I played along let them.

All of a sudden, they started telling me I had a "Koobface" virus. Which I found very strange since I don't have a Facebook account to begin with.

Anyway, the operator became impatient with me saying, "I've already spent 15 minutes with you, and wanted me to buy their "protection". I demurred, of course, and terminated the call.

So, I came here to Techspot and reported the scam. Of course, nobody here wanted to, "take on Google". I explained that it wasn't Google, but rather a site rented from Google.

Despite that, and being dressed down in the forum for my "stupidity", the site and its attendant toll free number was gone a week later.

What really happened, I guess we'll never know.

I rebooted my computer, scanned it with my AV, and changed a few passwords to be prudent.

My old school approach to security is, never keep any financial data on my machines, don't let browsers or password managers into the mix, and above all insist on paper statements from all my credit card companies. Oh, and use "private browsing" sessions for banking, so no login info is left on the machine after the window is closed.

That's worked so far. Keeping my fingers crossed anyway.(I hope I can uncross them soon, as this happened a couple of years ago). ;)

Then there's the phone scams I get from time to time. I rarely answer the phone, (no need), but from time to time I like to fu*k with callers. My favorite is when I get called by people, (mostly with Indian accents), telling me, "there's an XXXX dollar charge being made to my Amazon account. I tell them I "I have my browser already open and I'll check myself". Then comes.....a click, a busy signal, and they never even bother to say goodbye. :(.
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Posts: 436   +320
Google and its subsidies are known to support non-honest content. For example, there was a YouTube channel that was publishing for months that US aircraft carrier has been bombed by Chinese aircraft. The date in the headline was updated through a script, so it was always showing the current day. It looked like breaking news.

For months and months tons of people reported the channel for obvious misinformation. But YT still allowed the channel and even showed it in recommendations. The misinformation campaign continued for over a year, until finally the channel was changed to private.

Now, compare that to a channel that would, for example, tell the audience how many people died immediately after COVID vaccination. Or a channel that would show the number of underage girls raped by immigrants in Sweden. Those channels would have been deleted in a few days.

It clearly shows that certain misinformation channels are protected by YT (and even recommended), while certain channels attempting to tell the truth are actively censored.