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The ins and outs of tech support scams

WARNING: The unsolicited phone call or pop-up message warning you of problems with your computer was likely a scam.

The tech support scam is yet another way fraudsters are trying to gain access to your computer, money—or both.

“Unfortunately, there have been several members who have fallen victim to these types of scams,” says Kelly Liddle, fraud specialist at Dupaco Community Credit Union’s Pennsylvania Avenue branch in Dubuque, Iowa.

How it works

Scammers call and claim to be computer techs associated with companies like Microsoft or Apple, or they send pop-up messages warning about non-existent computer problems, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

“They say they’ve detected viruses or other malware on your computer. They claim to be ‘tech support’ and will ask you to give them remote access to your computer. Eventually, they’ll diagnose a non-existent problem and ask you to pay for unnecessary—or even harmful—services,” the FTC warns.

It’s happening locally

“Often, we are seeing a member’s computer being infected with a virus, which ultimately gives the fraudster access to their accounts,” Liddle says.

Sometimes, the scammers say they will issue a refund. In reality, they merely transfer the victims’ funds from their savings account to their checking account. The fraudster then claims they refunded too much and requests those funds to be returned via iTunes gift cards, Money Gram or Western Union.

“I cannot stress enough to always, always, always be suspicious when ‘overpayment’ or a ‘refund’ is stated,” Liddle says. “Requests to return funds in the form of gift cards should be a major red flag.”

How to protect yourself

Watch for red flags and follow these steps to protect yourself from scams like these:

  • Keep your computer and virus software up to date.
  • Don’t open unsolicited emails or pop-up messages that aren’t from trusted sources.
  • Avoid sharing computers and passwords if able.
  • Don’t send sensitive information via an unsecured email.
  • Remember that reputable businesses and services don’t call out of the blue.
  • Resist being pressured. “Fraudsters are persistent. They will call, text and email you with the hopes you will give up or give in. Pressure is the name of the game,” Liddle says. “Once you have detected the scam, stop all communication, block the fraudster’s number and email address, and be prepared for a heavy influx of contact attempts.”
  • Check your financial accounts and credit report regularly by setting up eNotifiers, eAlerts and Bright Track via Shine Online Banking.
  • “And, as always, if something is too good to be true, it probably is,” Liddle says.

If you are scammed…

If you suspect you are a victim of the tech support scam, immediately turn off your computer and disconnect it from the Internet.

“Do not go back on your computer until you have had a trusted computer specialist clean it for viruses and any malware or key logger software,” Liddle says.

If you’re concerned that your Shine Online Banking might have been compromised, contact Dupaco to ensure your accounts are secured.

For additional security and peace of mind, consider enrolling in Family ID Restoration coverage. Dupaco partners with Deluxe to give members additional resources to prevent and respond to identity theft and fraud.

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