Security Corner

Feb 13 2011   12:55PM GMT

How to Spot a Tech Support Scam

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

There seems to have been a rash of tech support scams lately, some with people actually to pretend to be from Microsoft. The scammers seem to target online forums and tech support sites, so be careful what you post if you really do have a technical problem. (You are always welcome to Ask the Geek and that’s my site, so you’re safe.) Let’s take a look at some of the warning signs that will clue you into the fact that you’re probably being scammed. This is taken from one particular incident reported by Woody Leonhard in Windows Secrets.

  • First of all, the call will be unsolicited. Even if you asked on a forum, so not assume that the call is in relation to that. You didn’t ask for a phone call, so if you get one, be wary.
  • They will ask you for personal contact information, or perhaps pretend they already know it.
  • You are asked for your Windows activation code or CD key. There’s no reason why anyone would need this to fix your PC; it’s just a tactic to make you think they’re legitimate.
  • They will ask you for some other sort of code or “warranty check” information which you won’t have, and which, of course, is completely bogus anyway.
  • Something like this will happen next (as described by the almost-victim in the above article. The person was put on hold while the “technician” purportedly “checked” the warranty: “A few minutes later, he was back and gave me the unfortunate news that my free support period had ended. He told me I would have to pay $99 for extended support and directed me to a place on the website to enter my credit card information. I’m not sure why, but I smelled a rat, so I hung up on him.”
  • The website you are referred to looks legitimate and may even say things like, “Microsoft Registered Partner” and have an official Microsoft logo, or it may say “This company is a Technical Support Provider.”
  • The domain name is registered in a foreign country and/or does not have legitimate contact addresses or phone numbers associated with it.
  • The website they refer you to may have numerous spelling and grammatical errors or just “doesn’t look right.”
  • The “support engineer,” or whatever he calls himself wants you to review your event viewer logs and points out that there are numerous yellow and red flags. This, of course, is normal for most Windows machines, but they will try to convince you of the dire consequences of ignoring the warnings and errors.

Don’t fall for it. Most of this will be social engineering in one form or another. They will get your money, they will get your personal information, and they may steal your identity.

1  Comment on this Post

 
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  • wamabuti
    This just happened to me, my MS Excel is not working the way it should, so i went on ask.com and typed my question. then i saw Microsoft support, clicked on it and it was Omni Tech Support . so i typed the problem, waited and got thru to a technician who was to tap to my computer to see the problem. This was a Tech 298, that's what they went by. After a few minutes the tech told me i have a lot of hacking problems and a lot of viruses. That they will charge me $199.99 for the whole fix. something told me not to go ahead with this. I told the tech I've not been working so i cant afford that, he/she lowered to $119.99, i said that it was still too much for me. she lowered it to $49.99  then asked me if she could redirect to the payment page so that i can give info of how i will pay, by my checking or savings account.I said when i start working i will contact them so that we can fix my computer. The agent got mad and just logged my computer off. OMNI TECH SUPPORT IS A SCAM!!  TO MY KNOWLEDGE
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