A Tech Support Scam is when a scammer poses as a legitimate company offering to repair your devices they claim have been hacked or infected with malware.
There are many variants of these scams. Two common variants are cold calling and website popups.
The cold calling variant is simple. The caller claims to be from a well know company (i.e. Microsoft or Telstra) and advises the victim that they have malware or someone has hacked their device, and that they are calling to help rectify the problem.
The caller will often talk the victim through the steps of opening and viewing errors in the event viewer. The errors, which do show items that may need attention on your machine, are then used by the scammer to help support their false claims.
The scammer will then talk the victim through the steps of installing remote access software, which give them access to the device, allowing them to undertake the “repair”. Before doing the “repair” they will require a credit card to charge a fee ranging anywhere between $300 to $1300, depending on the “support package” the victim agrees to. Often they will install software that can be acquired for free (or cheaply) and sell it to you at a very high mark-up.
Pop-up Message Scam
A pop-up message scam works the same as the Cold Calling scam except for the victim is the one who initialises the call.
The victim may be browsing a legitimate website that when an outbound link is clicked (i.e. an advertisement, or a link shared on social media) a pop-up message will be displayed. The pop-up message may be hard to close and will advise the user that they are infected with malware and to call a 1800 number to have the problem rectified.
These pop-up messages can be very hard to close. This is an effective method used by the scammers to trick the user into believing there is malware on their machine.
A simple trick to close the message is shutting down the device.
Example of a Tech Support Scam pop-up
Social engineering techniques can be hard to protect yourself from. Familiarising yourself with scams can help you be vigilant if you are targeted by a scammer.
Scamwatch is run by the ACCC. It provides information to consumers and small businesses about how to recognise, avoid, and report scams.
Our Tech Tips articles also have great tips on protecting yourself online, so do check them out as well.