Beware tech support screen — fake ad

Today’s Cnet article “Government cracks down on tech support scam” reminded me that I had a few reports of this scam last month.

The Federal Trade Commission, along with federal, state and international law enforcement agencies, said on Friday they caught several scam artists who bilked money out of victims through a tech support scheme.

The scam worked like this: An advertisement designed to look like a security alert would pop up on your computer [while browsing the Internet] to warn of a virus or malware, directing the user to call a toll-free number. Some of the messages even included a countdown clock.

Once the person called the number, they were connected to telemarketers claiming to work with well-known companies like Apple or Microsoft. These telemarketers would ask for remote access to the computer and discover a large number of problems (that weren’t really there). They would ultimately charge the user hundreds of dollars for unnecessary repairs.

The article contains an image of the window that appears in your browser. One client believed the screen, panicked, called the number, and let the scammers take remote control of her PC (to show all the supposed problems); then realized the scam when an odd form of payment was demanded (iTunes gift cards). Another client called the number and realized the scam after a brief Q&A about who they were. Another client was about to call the number but called me first. Just another telemarketing scam — whether on the phone or computer screen.