You’re on your laptop when, suddenly, a pop-up appears: “Virus detected! Call now for a free security scan and to repair your device.” Some of these pop-ups can also be accompanied by annoying audio messages that warn of dire consequences if you don’t act immediately.
Don’t be fooled. It’s a tech support scam. Don’t respond, cautions the Federal Trade Commission; real tech support companies do not conduct business this way.
In these schemes, scammers pose as well-known cybersecurity or IT companies and use pop-ups, fake websites and phone calls to trick you into thinking your computer has a critical security problem. They seek to steal your money by selling worthless security software and enrolling you in fake tech support programs.
These fraudsters pressure you into calling a toll-free number, threatening that you may lose personal data and computer access if you don’t act immediately.
It’s a recipe for disaster.
If you call, the scammer might ask for remote access to your device, pretend to run a diagnostic test, or tell you they’ve found a virus or other cybersecurity problem. They try to sell you a security subscription or other “services” that range from worthless, for example, they’re available for free — to malicious — they install malware that can steal your personal data.
If you get a pop-up to call a number to fix a virus on your computer, ignore it, the FTC says. Your computer is almost certainly fine. But if you’re concerned, call your security software company directly — and don’t use the phone number in the pop-up or on caller ID. Use a number you know is real, like the one on a software package or your receipt. Tech support scammers like to place online ads masquerading as legitimate companies, so be sure you have the correct telephone number for the real tech company before phoning.
Be suspicious if someone asks you to pay for anything — including tech support services — with a gift card, cash reload card, or a wire transfer, it’s a scam. No legitimate company will ask you to pay this way. If you suspect a scam, report it at FTC.gov/complaint.
July is Military Consumer Month, for more information, visit www.militaryconsumer.gov.