The tech support scam is quite common, and we've warned about it in the past.
It's when a scammer calls an unsuspecting consumer and pretends to be from Microsoft Tech Support. He tells his victim that he's noticed his or her computer is running slowly.
Now everyone thinks their computer runs more slowly than it should, so the victim may be quick to agree to the scammers offer to fix it remotely for a fee, charged to the victim's credit card.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) told Congress this week that this scam disproportionately targets seniors, who tend to be scam targets anyway. Since many older people confess to being technically inept, the scammer sees seniors as easy pickings for this particular con.
Testifying before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Lois Greisman, Associate Director of the FTC’s Division of Marketing Practices, said of the more than 18,000 tech support complainants to the FTC who reported their age during the first eight months of 2015, 76% were at least 50 years old, and 56% were more than 60 years old.
Money for nothing
Sometimes a scammer actually does take control of a victim's computer and downloads dangerous malware. More often than not though, the scammer is just after the victim's money.
In those cases the scammer does nothing to the victim's computer, takes the credit card information, and is on his way. Greisman says many times a victim will believe his or her computer actually is running faster, thanks to the imposter's remote efforts, and never reports the scam.
The FTC says it launched an international crackdown in 2012 that stopped six tech support scams based mainly in India. Last year, Greisman says the agency brought actions against operations that bilked more than $100 million from thousands of consumers, and worked with Indian authorities to combat the scam.
Meanwhile, young adults need to make their parents aware of this scam. When someone calls out of the blue, claiming to be from “tech support,” consumers need to understand that never happens in the real world. It's a scam.