Uh oh. One of your employees sat down at their workstation and was presented with a pop-up telling them that Microsoft has detected a fatal issue with their workstation, and if they don’t let someone remote in to fix it, all of their data will be lost. This could be a serious problem… especially if your employee falls for this scam and lets in a threat.
Tech support scams are not an uncommon thing, blending social engineering and phishing together to deliver the desired result to a scammer. For our tip, we’ll discuss how to identify and avoid these scams and deprive a scammer of that result.
A Global Problem
Make no mistake, these scams are an issue all around the world. While the impact is felt the greatest in the United States, China, and India, scammers clearly don’t discriminate by region.
However, there’s another layer to the issue of tech support scams.
There is an intense level of competition in India for employment opportunities, especially among the generation who should now be entering the workforce. For some reference as to how intense this competition is, 2016 saw a state-owned bank receive over one and a half million applications for just 1,500 open positions. This makes it not uncommon for many job applicants to be grossly overqualified for the position they are seeking, recipients of a master’s degree in business administration often applying to be a street sweeper. Naturally, this provides ample motivation for the populace to take any job that presents itself – even if it is at the expense of another.
Many call centers in India will take full, unabashed advantage of this, hiring young job-seekers through a convoluted and secretive process – sometimes not even informing the applicant who they are actually working for. This process can also cost the applicant a not-insignificant sum, as they are often charged for these interviews and trainings. Once the training is complete, an applicant leaves with a start date.
However, these jobs are often not what is expected. Instead of working in customer service, these youths are tasked with initiating a scam. They will call a target, deliver their “pitch,” and transfer the primed caller to a senior scammer who seals the deal. However, despite abysmal pay for being involved in these scams and the emotional burden placed on them by interacting with their often-helpless and terrified targets, many of these scammers find that scams are, again, one of the few effective ways to make money. As a result, many of these young scammers – effectively exploited themselves – end up embracing their role, working to get as big a piece of the pie as possible.
Thwarting These Attempts
Of course, while those on the other end of the line may not be in a great position themselves, you want to make sure that their efforts to scam you are ultimately wasted. To accomplish this outcome, it is important to remember a few key warning signs.
- Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You – The first thing to remember is that, if a Microsoft representative suddenly calls you without warning, they probably aren’t actually with Microsoft. You should even take your caller ID with a grain of salt, as that can be spoofed to look official enough to trust.
- Weak Link in the Chain – Links are another favorite weapon of scammers, as they can be shared in an email to direct a user to a website filled with fake warning pop-ups. Avoid clicking on these links, and if you are presented with an alert screen, restart your computer. Scammers will also work to ensure that they reach the top results of search engines through sponsored ads to attract those legitimately looking for help. These links should be avoided as well. Google has made serious efforts to not allow scammers to run Remote IT Support ads, but it hasn’t stopped everything yet.
- Remain in Control – Unless you are absolutely sure that a third party is trustworthy, never give up control of your computer. Otherwise, you could hand precious data over to a scammer or otherwise land yourself in hot water.
The Better Method
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Have you ever encountered a scam like this before? Tell us about it in the comments!