Technical support scams are a lucrative way for cyber criminals to trick unsuspecting users into forking over money and personal information. They use that information to access banking and credit card numbers and often install malware on your computer in order to do it. Malware, or malicious software, infects computers with viruses, giving scammers access to all types of sensitive information your computer stores.
Technical support phone scammers prey on fear. Casual computer owners are often told their computers are infected with malware and other viruses, leaving them vulnerable to attacks. When in fact, that's exactly what fake computer support scammers have as their goal. Claiming to be from well known software manufacturers, they try to convince you they are legitimate. They're fast talking, using jargon many don't understand, or don't want to admit they know nothing about. Pressure is applied quickly, spinning fear of the unknown into means of gaining trust.
Using the phone is a very effective tool for tech support scammers. Tech scams use public information such as phone listings to find their prey. Scammers also use scareware tactics. Pop-up ads claiming to rid users of infections or optimizing computer speed are also fake tech support favorites. Guiding users to legitimate looking, but fake, websites is one way of gaining credit card and password information. Paying anywhere from $100 to $500 to "clean" computers of viruses is common. At that point your credit card information is given up to them, and the scammers are off to the races.
What can unsuspecting users do to guard themselves from slick tech support scammers? It's a combination of healthy skepticism and quick thinking. It's important for computer users to know that legitimate software companies don't make calls to people telling them that their computers are infected, or need optimizing for speed. In fact, they wouldn't even know unless you told them. Legitimate companies also don't use fear or urgency as their primary motivation. No one should ask for passwords or credit card numbers over the phone or online to provide support. Private information should remain just that, private.
Never give anyone access to your computer via remote connection in order to provide tech support. Even if they do make changes that don't immediately cause issues, they could leave your computer open to an exploit later. And if they try to convince you to buy a "warranty" or extended support plan, don't do it. It's really just another way to get your payment card details.
If you do really need technical support, go directly to a company's website for telephone contact information.