The pop-up display is bright red and eye-grabbing. It warns that your computer is infected with malware and your data is at risk. You’re prompted to immediately dial a provided number to reach Apple® or Microsoft® Windows support.
You call the number in a panic and find yourself subjected to high-pressure tactics to pay hundreds of dollars to remove the malware from your machine or buy a security subscription. But, don’t succumb to the pressure—it’s a tech support scam.
One early warning sign of such scams is when the “certified expert” on the other end of the phone asks for remote access to your computer. Gaining this level of access is a scammer’s favorite tool to get inside your device and then claim they found problems. Remote access also exposes your computer to genuine malware, including keylogging programs that can grab sensitive passwords and other confidential information.
Raids Garnering Results
Fortunately for you and other consumers, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) targeted these scammers through Operation Tech Trap, a huge international raid resulting in 16 enforcement actions against scammers.
Some of the victims scammed by one notorious company may now get relief from a new court settlement. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania approved FTC’s request that nearly $2 million from Click4Support LLC be used for consumer refunds.
In the Click4Support case, operators used a series of pop-up ads claiming to be from Apple, Microsoft Windows, and other device makers. These unsolicited banners were placed on legitimate-looking websites. The Click4Support LLC group operated under the following names: iSource USA LLC, UBERTECHSUPPORT, Spanning Source LLC, and Innovazion Inc. The FTC estimates that Click4Support raked in $17 million before it was shut down.
Individuals who believe they have a claim against one of these companies should file a complaint at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or call (877) 382-4357 as soon as possible. Please note that a credit card statement can help document your claim.
Spotting a Scam
One way to debunk a pop-up scam is to research the number you’ve been asked to call. Services like 800notes.com, a free reverse phone number database, feature a directory of unknown callers and can help you identify phone numbers reportedly being used by fraudsters.
The FTC provides a great deal of advice on spotting tech support scams including this infographic. Topics include: How the Scan Works, If You Get a Call or Pop-up, If You Were Scammed, and Refund Scams.