A scam started years ago is once again being circulated in California, prompting officials to issue a consumer alert in the hopes no one will fall victim to the ploy.
The California Attorney General’s Office is warning consumers to be wary of tech support scams that claim to help resolve an issue, but are really targeting personal data stored on users’ computers.
“Millions of Californians rely on computers for banking, shopping, school work and much more,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “While technology makes our lives easier, it also creates opportunities for scams. Californians should be particularly wary of anyone asking for money or private information online or over the phone.”
Tech support scams often begin either by phone or online, via a pop-up window requesting to chat with a user or directing people to call a phone number to fix a computer problem. The scam can also start with an email or text message warning of a computer vulnerability and directing users to visit a website or call a phone number. Then, the scammer pretends to be a computer technician working for a reputable technology company or internet service provider and solicits personal information.
The scam artists posing as tech support might make some of the following statements:
• Viruses or malware have been found on your computer and need to be eliminated immediately.
• Your computer will suffer imminent harm if you do not buy the software, allow tech support to fix the problem, or provide remote access to your computer.
• You must search for particular files on your computer. When you find the files, which are usually harmless or related to legitimate programs, the scammer may try to trick you into believing that you need to buy useless software to delete them.
As part of the scheme to “save” your computer, the scammer may direct you to a fraudulent website and ask you to enter credit card information, or other sensitive financial information, that he or she can then steal. Or, the scammer may take control of your computer and refuse to return it to you unless you agree to purchase computer services.
Californians who believe they are victims of a tech support scam or who have been approached by tech support scammers should file a complaint at HYPERLINK "http://www.oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-company"www.oag.ca.gov/contact/consumer-complaint-against-business-or-company with the California Attorney General’s Office. Victims may also call (800) 952-5225 or send a letter to: California Department of Justice, Public Inquiry Unit, P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550.