We just got another batched of frozen computers checked in, brought by upset clients who had googled for telephone computer support. Some had paid money for some kind of clean-up or security tool, and several were worried that crucial data had been stolen. They were all victims of phishing scams, in which the person on the line convinced them that he could help, and hooked them into giving him computer control, passwords, credit card numbers, and access to other personal data. Their common question was, “How could I have known this would happen?”
Here are a few basic tips:
Top hits on Google searches are often paid advertisements, and not necessarily legitimate.
If it’s a complicated flashy name such as microsoft-support.experthelpforyou247.com followed by a big phone number, it’s probably a phisher. The biggest companies have the shortest domain names, such as aol.com or microsoft.com. Phishers latch onto these names with all kinds of add-ons so they’ll come up on your search.
Big computer companies generally do NOT want to talk to you. They usually provide FAQ’s pages and perhaps chat support; if you look very hard you may find an 800 number that often just refers you to their webpage. On the other hand, your friendly phisher really wants to talk to you, 24/7!
If you call that support number, and the person on the other line talks away like from a script, has a suspicious accent, side steps your questions, pressures you about needing remote access to fix some scary (but really minor) issue, etc. stop! Would you let a stranger into your house? Your bedroom? That’s what you are doing when you give an unknown person access to your computer.
If you paid for support, always call the number on your original packaging.
If a computer support tech ever calls you out of the blue to tell you that your computer has been hacked, hang up!