Computer viruses and malware are scary. Tech support scammers exploit that fear, claiming your computer or mobile device is dangerously ill and needs an immediate, costly cure. Don’t buy it: These faux technicians are out to steal your money or your identity, not save your machine.
Tech support cons typically start in one of two ways: an unsolicited phone call or a pop-up warning on your computer or device.
Tech support phone scams
As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) notes, some scam callers pretend to be connected with Microsoft, Apple or a familiar security software company such as Norton or McAfee and claim to have detected an imminent threat to the mark’s computer. They will ask for remote access to your computer in order to run phony diagnostic tests, then pretend to have found malware or a virus that’s set to freeze the machine or eat your data.
Once they have you running scared, the crooks will pressure you to pay hundreds of dollars for repairs, new software, and other products and services you don't need. They'll ask for a credit card number so they can charge the transaction, or request payment by gift card or money transfer (methods favored by many scammers because they are difficult to trace).
Worse yet, they might utilize their access to your computer to transmit actual malware that harvests personal and financial information from the device, which they can use for identity theft.