Don’t freak out if you receive an email, text, or pop-up message alleging that your computer has been compromised; it was probably simply a hoax.
An alarming increase in tech support fraud that leads victims to believe their computers or bank accounts have been compromised is being made public knowledge by the FBI’s Boston office.
Tech support fraud involves con artists posing as real customer service representatives, typically from a well-known corporation like Apple or Microsoft. The fraudster will suggest the customer has to pay money to remedy the problem after tricking them into thinking something is wrong with their computer or bank account. Fraudsters may even assert that there was child sex abuse material on the user’s computer in an effort to frighten the consumer.
For more than ten years, tech support strategies have been a concern. However, the costs associated with these crimes have been soaring. The FBI’s Boston branch reported that in 2017, the federal agency received 23,903 complaints regarding tech support scams, an increase of 137% over the previous year and estimated losses of $347 million.
The FBI’s Boston office further stated that “most victims, approximately 60%, reported to be over 60 years old, and experienced 68% of the losses.” 809 victims reported losing more than $7.5 million here in the Boston Division, which includes all of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island; this represents a 49% increase from the previous year.
There were also various examples from the FBI’s Boston section about how tech support fraud has affected US consumers. On their computer or tablet, the victims in all four of the instances discovered a pop-up message alleging that their device had been compromised.
One Maine couple lost $1.1 million as a result of the pop-up notifications after being tricked into wiring money to an account at the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase by the con artists.
Additionally, scammers posing as tech help have persuaded victims to download remote desktop programs like UltraViewer and AnyDesk. The scammers will do this under the assumption that doing so will make it simpler for them to assist the customer in getting out of their sticky situation. However, the scammers are really utilizing the programs to gain access to the victims’ devices, which they may then use to open cryptocurrency accounts and steal the victims’ money.
According to Joseph Bonavolonta, head of the FBI’s Boston section, “in certain cases, we’ve seen people lose their whole life savings, which is why we are imploring everyone, especially our aging family members and friends, to heed this warning.”
The FBI is warning the public that reputable tech support companies never make an effort to contact customers in an uninvited manner in order to keep them safe. Furthermore, they won’t demand payment in the form of cash, prepaid cards, or cryptocurrencies.
“Don’t call the number if a pop-up or error message appears with it. Never include phone numbers in error or warning messages, the organization continued. You can watch our tutorial on how to identify the most common internet scams or consult the FBI’s bulletin (Opens in a new window) for additional advice.
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