In a tech support scam, you’re tricked into believing you must give remote access to your computer to solve a tech crisis of some sort. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning about a new variation on this scam that banks on their good name and real history.
The traditional tech support scam
It might appear that your computer has been infected by a virus or your account has been hacked. In either case, scammers pretend to be a legitimate company—such as Microsoft or Apple (even by using Caller ID spoofing) to make you think everything is on the up and up.
The scammers ask to remote in to your computer in order to fix whatever problem you’ve been made to believe you’re experiencing. Instead of fixing the make-believe problem, the scammers steal personal information, install malware, or maybe even sell you worthless software to get your credit card information.
The new scam
Rather than tricking you into thinking something is wrong with your computer, this scam wants you to believe you’re owed money from a legitimate government agency.
The scammers claim you can get money from a now-completed effort by the FTC called the Advanced Tech Support Refund Program. To get your money, all you have to do is let the “FTC” connect to your computer or provide your credit card information for your refund. While the program was real, the rest is a scam.
If you give remote access to your computer, scammers could steal your personal information or install malware designed to do it for them. The scammers may also tell you there’s a number you can call if you have questions—that number is fake. If you do have any questions about the Advanced Tech Support Refund Program, call the real number: 1-877-793-0908.
A ring of truth
If the Advanced Tech Support Refund Program sounds familiar, that’s because it was real.
Advanced Tech Support used high-pressure sales pitches to get consumers to buy tech support and security products, falsely claiming to find viruses and malware on people’s computers. As part of an FTC and State of Florida lawsuit, the company had to pay $10 million for customer refunds.
Instructions were issued to impacted consumers, checks have already been mailed, and no new claims are being accepted.
The FTC is reminding consumers that they, or their refund administrators, will never request remote access to your device. If you do get a call about this scam—or a similar one—hang up immediately and report it to the FTC.