Last month I covered some of the many fraudulent schemes that criminals use to steal an individual’s identity and/or money. Since there are so many out there I couldn’t get them all into one article. So, this month and next month I am continuing the same subject with additional scams and how you can protect yourself against them. This month I’ll only be covering Tech Support Fraud as it is becoming such a huge problem on the internet.
This is one fraud that I am VERY familiar with as my wife and I were victims of it. Tech support scams are now extremely widespread and varying in their complexity. According to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker, in 2017 the FBI received approximately 11,000 complaints of tech support fraud. The reported losses added up to almost $15 million which is an 86% increase over 2016 losses. They happen when a criminal claims to provide customer security or technical support in an effort to defraud someone. Scammers pose as a security, customer or technical support representative and offer to help resolve computer issues such as a compromised email or bank account, a virus on a computer, or to help with renewing a software license. There are a number of ways that victims initially are contacted:
- Telephone. An unsolicited phone call claims the victim’s computer is infected and is sending an error message. There are a number of scams that attempt to trick victims into giving up personal information or sending money. In my case, my wife got the call from an individual claiming to be from Microsoft tech support. He informed her that there was a virus on our home computer and he was there to help her delete it. After coaxing her to enter some instructions on the computer she realized he had control of the computer. She screamed at him to get off of the computer which he did, but not before he was able to completely wipe the computer clean of all programing. It was done in such a way as to make the computer unusable, forcing us to have to buy a new computer and recreate all of our programing and files. Fortunately, we had backed up our files on a separate hard drive and use extremely complex passwords so that the information was, we can only assume, unusable to the scammer.
- Search Results Online. When you search for help online, be on the lookout for ads that may be disguising themselves as resources for you. Some scammers pose as legitimate company’s in search ads to trick you into clicking on their site.
- Pop-up Message or Locked Screen. An on-screen pop up message claims there is a virus on your laptop and that you need to call a number. But the phone number is for a fake company, set up to get access to your computer. These may also be accompanied by an incoming call to ask you for more information.
- Email. Phishing emails are common, often indicating a sense of urgency and linking to sites disguised to look legit.
Criminals are adding new techniques and tricks to attempt to gain personal information. This is personal information that can be bought and sold on the dark web after a data breach. Or maybe you clicked to take a quiz on social media and provided information to the fraudulent company that they turn around and use as bait in a phone call or email to you.
As I mentioned earlier, some scammers are now posing as government officials or law enforcement and they claim they need funds to support an investigation or return lost funds. Criminals may also pose as a collection agency, claiming that the victim didn’t pay a past bill for tech support services. They usually threaten legal action or reporting the collection on a credit report to scare the victim on the phone into complying. You should always ask for documentation before paying any ‘unpaid’ bill, especially when you don’t recognize the charges or company.
Another growing issue is that scammers claim that they are providing tech support for virtual currencies or cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. Because many people are still learning about cryptocurrencies and their security, it’s an area that’s easy to take advantage of. Criminals may also attempt to get victims to send virtual currency for payment since it is harder to track.
Next month, more scams and how to protect yourself from them.
If you have any questions about this article or if I can be of assistance to you with your investment questions, please feel free to call me at 480-296-9556.
Rudy Eidenbock, Financial Advisor, RJFS
Office: 480-307-9909, Cell:480-295-9556
Fax:480-907-1413, 4111 E. Valley Auto Dr. #104
Mesa, Arizona 85206 www.puritywealthadvisors.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purity Wealth Advisors is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services Inc. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors Inc.
The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete, it is not a statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision, and it does not constitute a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Rudy Eidenbock and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Every investor’s situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance and time horizon before making any investment.