The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is receiving an increase in complaints related to technical support scams, where the subject claims to be an employee (or an affiliate) of a major computer software or security company offering technical support to the victim. Recent complaints indicate some subjects are claiming to be support for cable and Internet companies to offer assistance with digital cable boxes and connections, modems, and routers. The subject claims the company has received notifications of errors, viruses, or security issues from the victim's internet connection. Subjects are also claiming to work on behalf of government agencies to resolve computer viruses and threats from possible foreign countries or terrorist organizations. From January 1, 2016, through April 30, 2016, the IC3 received 3,668 complaints with adjusted losses of $2,268,982.
Initial contact with the victims occurs by different methods. Any electronic device with Internet capabilities can be affected.
Once the phony tech support company/representative makes verbal contact with the victim, the subject tries to convince the victim to provide remote access to their device.
If the device is mobile (a tablet, smart phone, etc.), the subject often instructs the victim to connect the device to a computer to be fixed. Once the subject is remotely connected to the device, they claim to have found multiple viruses, malware, and/or scareware that can be removed for a fee. Fees are collected via a personal debit or credit card, electronic check, wire transfer, or prepaid card. A few instances have occurred in which the victim paid by personal check.
An increasingly reported variation of the scam occurs when the subject contacts the victim offering a refund for tech support services previously rendered because the company has closed.
The victim is convinced to allow the subject access to their device and to log onto their online bank account to process the refund. The subject then has control of the victim's device and bank account. With this access, the subject appears to have “mistakenly” refunded too much money to the victim's account, and requests the victim wire the difference back to the subject company. In reality, the subject transferred funds among the victim's own accounts (checking, savings, retirement, etc.) to make it appear as though funds were deposited. The victim wires their own money back to the company, not finding out until later that the funds came from one of their own accounts. The refunding and wiring process can occur multiple times, which results in the victim losing thousands of dollars.
Victims are increasingly reporting subjects are becoming hostile, abusive, and utilizing foul language and threats when being challenged by victims.
The tech support scam is an attempt by subjects to gain access to victim devices. However, more can happen once a subject is given access to the device. For example:
Individuals who believe they may be a victim of an online scam (regardless of dollar amount) can file a complaint with the IC3 at www.ic3.gov.
To report tech support scams, please be as descriptive as possible in the complaint including:
Complainants are also encouraged to keep all original documentation, emails, faxes, and logs of all communications.
Because scams and fraudulent websites appear very quickly, individuals are encouraged to report possible Internet scams and fraudulent websites by filing a complaint with the IC3 at www.ic3.gov. To view previously released PSAs and Scam Alerts, visit the IC3 Press Room at www.ic3.gov/media/default.aspx.