Consumers need to be constantly on guard against a widespread and growing tech-support scam that can take over victims’ computers and drain their savings, fraud expert Amy Nofziger of AARP Foundation warned a national television audience.
“These con artists are skilled at tricking people into believing they are a legitimate support tech from a reputable company,” Nofziger said on “The Dr. Phil Show.” They then coax victims into revealing personal information or giving them access to their computers to supposedly fix a problem.
The warning was part of the AARP Fraud Watch Network’s initiative to raise awareness of the scam and to educate consumers about how they can protect themselves.
A survey released in October by Microsoft found that over the past year, two-thirds of consumers have experienced the tech-support scam and that 20 percent of people surveyed around the world continued with a potentially fraudulent interaction after the first contact. Microsoft estimated that losses have reached $1.5 billion.
Via telephone, email or pop-up ads, scammers typically tell their targets that a virus or some other security problem has been detected on their computer and offer to fix it. If the victim allows them to gain control of the computer, the scammers can access personal files and passwords and obtain credit card information, supposedly to settle repair charges for services that are worse than worthless.
“Everyone with a computer is a target and is vulnerable to be tricked by these con artists,” Nofziger told Dr. Phil McGraw and his TV audience. “The Microsoft survey actually found younger people were more likely to be scammed because they are online more and feel more confident.”
The survey found that among victims, half were millennials (ages 18 to 34), 34 percent were between the ages of 36 and 54, and 17 percent were 55 or older.
For tips about how keep safe from technical-support scammers, consumers can tap into a new Fraud Watch Network Web page at www.aarp.org/TechScams. The site includes detailed descriptions of how fraudsters execute their scams and a list of recommended do’s and don’ts. An educational booklet, published by Microsoft and the Fraud Watch Network, can also be downloaded from the site.