Computer Repair Scams: How To Spot Clever Criminal Traps

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Computer repair scammers can target anyone.

It’s not a new problem — and it’s something that most of us believe we are pretty savvy to the tricks of sleazy criminals. But even though we may think we’d be able to recognize a scam if we saw one, that’s sadly not always the case.

In 2019 alone, there were over 3 million cases of fraud and identity theft reported in the US, and credit card fraud more than doubled between 2017 and 2019.

What’s more, a study carried out by Better Business Bureau, FINRA, and the Stanford Center for Longevity found that over 50% of people contacted by scammers went as far as engaging with them.

And if it doesn’t happen to you, it could happen to one of your friends or family members. Take, for example, the sad case of a man who discovered that his father, who was suffering from Parkinson’s, had been scammed into paying $90,000 for “tech support” only shortly before his death last year.w

The good news is, there are ways to protect yourself — and your loved ones.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the most common computer repair scams, as well as some easy ways to spot a criminal trap before it’s too late.

So, let’s get started.

Phone call scams

Tech support scammers use unsolicited phone calls to reach out to potential victims — and try to convince them that their computer has been infected with a virus.

They will then tell you that you must either pay a large amount of money or download a piece of software (often spyware or malware) to fix the problem with your computer.

The most common warning signs of a phone call scam are:

  • The call is unexpected, but they tell you it is urgent. The first sign of a potential scam is when scam artists call you out of the blue. If you receive an unexpected call but are told it’s important and urgent, be cautious.
  • They use a lot of technical terms. Good tech support agents will use familiar words and terms you understand to explain any problems. Scammers use lots of technical terms to confuse and scare their victims into handing over their money.
  • Requesting remote access to your computer. Never allow anyone to remotely access your machine unless you have made the initial contact and specifically requested it.
  • Asking for credit card information. Handing over your financial information to someone who called you unexpectedly is a sure-fire way to have your identity and money stolen.

Remember, good tech support or computer repair specialists will never call you up and inform you of an issue you don’t know about — and they certainly won’t demand cash over the phone!

Email scams

Also known as ‘phishing’, email scammers are becoming increasingly convincing.

Some of the easiest ways to check if an email is genuine include:

  • The ‘from’ address. Does the email address look official? Often, emails from scam email addresses will include long strings of numbers and letters.
  • Contact information. Most scam emails will include suspicious-looking contact information at the bottom. To remain safe, check if the phone number and website links at the bottom of the email are genuine (a Google search is often the best way to do this).
  • Poor spelling, grammar, and presentation. While scammers can convincingly copy a logo, many will make mistakes in their spelling and grammar. Errors in the written content of the email are a big red flag, but also watch out for a mix of different fonts and sizes.
  • Attachments. The easiest way for a scammer to plant malicious software on your computer is by tricking you into downloading an attachment. Never open attachments to emails you did not expect to receive.
  • It’s urgent! As with phone scams, email scams will try to scare you into acting before thinking. Remember, you always have time to call the company yourself to double-check.
  • Asking for banking or security details. If an email asks you to update your financial or security information unexpectedly, it is almost certainly a scam.

Most phishing attempts are made in the hope of gaining enough information to clone your identity and steal your money.

Cybercriminals know that people will trust reputable companies, so they try very hard to imitate them. By looking out for these warning signs, you can remain one step ahead of them.

Pop-up scams

Pop-up messages are common when browsing online. Some are harmless: a coupon code for the website you are visiting, or an ad for something you might be interested in, for example.

But beware of scammers pushing dangerous pop-ups to your computer. This can happen when you visit certain websites or if you have accidentally installed adware from a malicious email attachment.

These pop-up scams try to get you to download computer virus-laden software that could be used to steal your identity and other personal information, so keep an eye out for these warning signs:

  • ‘Ransomware detected!’ The most common pop-up scams will tell you that your computer has been infected, and you must click to download security software to remove it.
  • Spelling and grammar mistakes. As with phishing emails, poor spelling and grammar is usually a sign that something is not right.
  • Unprofessional or low-quality images. If a pop-up looks grainy or otherwise unprofessional, the chances are that it’s been sent by a scammer.
  • Phone number. Pop-up scams may demand that you call a phone number. To work out whether it’s genuine, it’s a good idea to Google the number before calling it.

Online advert scams

To show how easy it is for scammers to use social media platforms as a way of deceiving people out of their money, UK-based consumer advice service ‘Which?’ attempted to post ads for a fake brand of bottled water.

The result? Both Facebook and Google promoted the fake product, with few questions asked — so it’s easy to see how simple it is for scammers to post fake ads online.

Thankfully, there are ways to check whether an online ad is genuine:

  • Find out who posted it. Did it come from a reputable company or a newly created company page with little information available?
  • Look out for errors. Errors in spelling, grammar, formatting, or images should set alarm bells ringing.
  • Preview the URL. If you hover over a URL link, you can see a preview of where it will take you. If the URL includes lots of random numbers, letters, and symbols, it is likely to be malicious.

The good news about online scam adverts is that you can take action against them. Reporting fake ads to the owner of the platform, whether that’s Google, Facebook, or any other company, should result in them being removed — and, in some cases, handed over to the police.

How to recover from a scam

If you realize you’ve become a victim of a scam, what’s the best course of action?

Well, that all depends on when you realize you’ve been scammed.

If you spot a scam when you are first contacted, the best course of action is to simply ignore it.

On the other hand, if a scammer has already accessed your device, you should change all your passwords — and notify your bank and credit card providers immediately. Then, have your device checked by a professional. 

Has a scammer been able to access your financial information? If you think so, you should contact your bank so that they can take the necessary steps to protect your account. It’s also a good idea to monitor your bank statements carefully for any unusual activity.

One of the best ways to protect yourself against computer repair scams is to only work with reputable companies when you need computer repair. At ScreenWorks, we will do everything we can to protect you against scammers. To find out more, get in touch with our dedicated team of professionals today!

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