Tech support call scams becoming more aggressive

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By Rebecca Herold, CEO, Privacy Professor®

Have you ever gotten an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be a tech support pro who wants to help you with an urgent problem with your computer? Chances are you have. It is estimated that just one type of these many scams have cost U.S. victims $1.5 billion so far in 2015. It is not known how many of these scams are currently active, but with new ones popping up almost every day, I would estimate there are at least hundreds, if not over one thousand, different groups of these crooks launching their own tech support phone scam.

My experiences

I got my first tech support scam call way back in 2005. I first wrote aboutanother scammer with a different scam who called me in 2008. I’ve also had over a dozen of my friends and acquaintances contact me to let me know that they had been called by a tech support phone scammer. Many of their experiences have been unique from what I’ve seen. The types of phone scams that can exist are only limited by the imaginations of the crooks committing them.

I got another call from another tech support scam caller on November 27 of this year (listen to it here; 15:42 minutes). These tech support scam calls have really evolved and are more aggressive and sophisticated in their tactics than ever before. In the past, they would not call me again after I hung up on them when they called.

In the past I would also play along with all the crooks’ calls and then hang up right before the point they would typically infect their victims’ computer. If you listen to my most recent call recording, to the end, you’ll know I stayed with them, playing along and doing as they asked, right up to the point where they wanted me to hit enter to give them access to my computer; I then told them I lost my internet connection. But this time was different, and points to a trend to be much more aggressive than in the past.

  • The call started with one person who, once I was engaged in conversation, said that she could see (even though she did not have access to my computer yet) that my computer was “so badly infected, and putting everyone else” I communicate with through it at risk that she wanted her manager, “the foremost expert in the world in such computer problems,” to speak with me. And then she transferred me to another person.
  • The tech support scam crooks repeatedly called me, 243 more times through December 9 from fourteen (so far) different phone numbers shown in Figure 1. This is an average of 19 calls per day! This shows how much they want to get into other people’s computers, and how lucrative their crimes are, to be so persistent.

  • They were much more aggressive. Calling me names when I told them I thought my computer was okay. Yelling at me when I said that I would take my computer to the computer repair shop I always use for computer tech support. Even threatening me with arrest, or to have people come to my home, if I didn’t let them clean up my computer like “a good cyber citizen.”

Being lured to the tech support site
Another variation of the tech support scam is luring people to the bogus, malicious fake site. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently fined ($1.3 million) and shut down some scammers who had stolen over $17 million from their duped victims by luring them to their sites with pop-up alerts telling the victim that malware was on their PC. The ads provided a contact number and people would be told to call to get rid of the problem. From there they’d be directed to a malicious site and the unsuspecting victim would follow instructions, and then nasty malware, ransomware would be downloaded, and they would be charged thousands of dollars to have it removed.

Know the signs of a scammer
Every business, of every size, and every individual is a potential target. Make sure that everyone in the organization can recognize some of the key red flags of a tech support scammer.

Unsolicited calls
If someone, who is not from any organization or vendor that you know you’ve paid to get tech services from, calls out of the blue and tells you that you have malware on your computer and they need to get into it to remove it, they are probably a crook.

Dubious information provided
They will try to sound convincing by telling you to go to your event log viewer, and will sound alarmed and concerned when you tell them the files that you have there; they’ll tell you that those files are all malicious. Don’t believe them. They are logs generated by the many different activities processed by your computer.

All of my calls came from people with very thick non-U.S. accents. I asked the first person who called, whose accent was so thick I had to ask him to repeat what he said several times, for his name. He said his name was Sam Wilson. This name also did not match the location from where he sounded like he came.

Malicious websites
These scammers have been using the same bogus business names when they speak with victims. Here are some of the URLs the scammers try to and convince victims to go to:

  •        onesupport.me
  •        support.me
  •        click4support
  •        chromecrashreport.com
  •        comphelpapp.com
  •        costatechhelp.com
  •        earntechhelp.com
  •        emergencyvirussupport.com
  •        get.instant-protection.com
  •        gettechhelp.com
  •        mypcoptimizerpro.com
  •        redlrect-403av.com
  •        redlrect-winav.com
  •        responsecomputersupport.com
  •        security-issue.us
  •        security-message.support
  •        washtechhelp.com
  •        window-defender-security-alert.info
  •        windows-spywarealert-cucwmpxvlfqfo2lpxgapsmccuy1yflsnjvtme.co

Keep this list handy. If someone tells you to go to one of these sites, you’ll know you are speaking with a scammer; simply hang up.

Invalid area codes

Scam callers often mask their phone numbers, using invalid phone numbers when they call so they cannot be traced. Figure 2 lists the 575 currently unassigned area codes that phone criminals love to use.

 

Of course, some phone scammers will use legitimate area codes, but those numbers are comparatively small. As a case in point, only three of the 14 different phone numbers used by calling criminals who called me were actually used area codes.

Keep this list handy. If someone calls using one of these area codes, you’ll know you are speaking with a scammer; simply hang up.

Stay aware

Never give control of your computer to someone who made an unsolicited call to you. And never provide credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be tech support.

If you do fall victim to one of these scams, report it to your company’s information security area and/or local police immediately.

Every business, of every size, sector and location, needs to stay aware of these calling scams. These criminals are equal opportunity scammers; they will call anyone anywhere to get a victim. This makes it more important than ever before for every organization to ensure they provide information security training to all their employees, and send them ongoing reminders warning of such scams. It also makes it very important for every individual to be able to recognize the signs of a phone scammer so they will not fall victim, and possibly lose all their files, and a lot of money, in the process.

For more information about these tech support scam crimes, see:

And read more about a particular phone scam where cybercriminals haved posed as Microsoft and Dell tech support.

 

This post originally appeared on the PowerMore web site and was written as part of the Dell Insight Partners program, which provides news and analysis about the evolving world of tech. Dell sponsored this article, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell’s positions or strategies.

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6 thoughts on “Tech support call scams becoming more aggressive

  1. I received a call today, They said they were with Dell and that they were selling an additional warranty. They said my warranty was about to expire tomorrow and that they were selling an extension for $99. They knew my tag # and address, but I was still leary. They called from 1800-847-4084

  2. I today do not know what is worse the scams or trying to do right thing and let you know. I got a call from 800-624-9897 which in my phone says dell support and I have called in past AND when i google Dell support shows up as Customer service: 1 (800) 624-9897 right there on screen. BUT when I call Dell to tell that I was contacted I am treated like idiot    

    1) I know that you never call me unless calling back on a request that I called on first    2) I know that if someone calls me it is most likely scam unless I requested a call back I am not stupid BUT this number is shown as your when as stated above you google dell support or even google that number. All I wanted to do was find out if you called me by mistake OR that someone is using a Dell listed number to scam people. Did I get a thank you your right this is our number Or a no this is not our number and we dont know why it is showing up as ours on computer. I instead got repeated lecture over and over about not talking to them. Is 800-624-9897 your number or not ?? If it isn't why is  it showing up as yours when googled?? and if it is then why am I being told by your support that I need to not talk to anyone calling  me from Dell ??

    Can't get a straight answer on this simple question How hard is it to look and see if it is  your number, and why if it isn't it is being shown as your number???  

    Makes me not want to ever bother being nice or even to wander about buying from you when cant trust (or find out if it is your number) support number on your site info Ive bough Dell forever and tell everyone to do so but this was insulting

  3. I would like to know a couple of things after owning Dells for years

    1 how can you begin to stop scam phone calls when they are using your own web site numbers ? I got a call today from 800-624-9896 Which if you go to your own  Dell site and look up contact numbers it shows   Home Users In Warranty   1-800-624-9896

    24/7 (http://www.dell.com/…/Dynamic) This is your number that called me it is the number I call for support AND NO I didnt talk to  them I said that you keep telling me not to talk to anyone claiming to be from Dell

    I did call you to see if you called me and to let know that someone was using your number What I got was lecture on not talking to them over and over Then finally a number to call to report it (866-383-4713) WHAT I got was told not to call them on this and lecture on not talking to pishing scams

    I know what a pishing scam is I get calls from fake Dell sites at least 3 times a week  WHAT I want to know is how are they using your number and why when I tried to tell yo uI am treated like idiot

    2 Why should I continue to buy from you or buy for my family when all I get is scam calls from your own numbers and treated this way when I call you back ??? AND LASTLY I am not a woman !!! After all theses  years you still call me ma'am

    You can't even stop scammers (if they are scammers) from using your own numbers to call And you refuse to listen instead choosing to continuously repeat your lecture on not talking to them even after I tell you over and over I didn't talk to them other than to say I was calling your number to be sure it is not a scam  

    I know this is a long comment but am so sick and tried of your own number now trying to scam me and no one in your company giving a ***

  4. Here my feedback. You guys must tell Mike Dell that someone inside Dell is leaking information from customers activities to the hackers. These hackers are getting worst every day. Only this month May 2017 I received about 8 calls. Since I am IT Professional I can tell right away if it is a scam BUT they are getting better and better because someone inside Dell is passing new information to them every day for example: I called Dell this week about the problem I am having and only this week I got 2 calls from the scammers and they new the information I shared with Dell. I did call Dell the right number. That means someone from Dell is a spy and passing information to the Hackers. You must hire someone to identify who is the person or persons who is passing the information to the Hacker and file criminal charges otherwise someone like me will file lawsuit against Dell for not protecting the customer data. Dell will become liable for this. Today I am expecting Dell to call me to help me with the issue and I provided the right time they should call me, Guess what? The Hacker called me 5 minutes before the time I provided to Dell to call me and I almost fell into this scam. So this is serious and should be addressed immediately. Mike Dell has helped me in the past with an issue I had and I admire him and I am sure he will like to know about this that I am providing to you because there is a spy inside Dell that needs to be identified immediately otherwise I will stop doing business with Dell and I will never buy they computers anymore. All the calls that I receive from Hackers are pretending to be from Dell. You can contact me about this.

  5. Here my feedback. You guys must tell Mike Dell that someone inside Dell is leaking information from customers activities to the hackers. These hackers are getting worst every day. Only this month May 2017 I received about 8 calls. Since I am IT Professional I can tell right away if it is a scam BUT they are getting better and better because someone inside Dell is passing new information to them every day, for example: I called Dell this week about a problem I am having and only this week I got 2 calls from the scammers with the new information I shared with Dell. I did call Dell the right phone number. That means someone from Dell is a spy passing information to the Hackers. You must hire someone to identify who is the person or persons who is passing the information to the Hacker and file criminal charges otherwise someone like me will file lawsuit against Dell for not protecting the customer data. Dell will become liable for this. Today I am expecting Dell to call me to help me with the issue and I provided the right time they should call me, Guess what? The Hackers called me 5 minutes before the time I scheduled with Dell to call me and I almost fell into this scam. So this is serious and should be addressed immediately. Mike Dell has helped me in the past with an issue that I had and I admire him a lot. I am sure he will like to know about this what I am providing to you because there is a spy inside Dell that needs to be identified immediately otherwise I will stop doing business with Dell and I will never buy Dell computers anymore and I will tell my friends and families to stop buying from Dell because we don’t have any protection. All the calls that I receive from Hackers are pretending to be from Dell not from any other company. You can contact me about this because I am tired and mad and so far I have not seen any improvement from Dell to resolve this.

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