Those pop-up virus warnings on your computer screen could actually be coming from imposters trying to scam you out of your time and money, according to consumer advocates and federal authorities.
The Federal Trade Commission said it has received more than 124,000 complaints about tech support scams with more than $36 million in losses since 2015. The FTC, FBI and Better Business Bureau said anyone who owns or uses a computer is a potential target.
Yona Klem of Naperville said after noticing a strange charge on one of her online accounts, she gave a so-called tech expert remote access to her computer and was told her device needed to be repaired. Turns out, Klem said she and her husband were scammed out of $1,000 in a fake tech support scam.
“We didn't know if this was for honest or for cheating or what,” Klem said. “We're both smart people and we got snookered.”
Steve Bernas of the BBB said a network of thieves can hold your computers, phones and bank accounts hostage.
“Sometimes you just don't realize you're a victim and all of a sudden your bank account might start getting depleted because they have access to your accounts, all of your information,” Bernas said. “They're watching you as you do your keystrokes when they're remotely in.”
Experts say consumers should never allow a stranger remote access to their computer. And if you receive a pop up warning that say your computer is at risk, experts say you should power down and reset your computer.
Consumers are also urged to change their passwords and report their encounters with a potential tech support scam to the FBI’s IC3.gov website and to the BBB’s ScamTracker.
The FTC said it is attacking tech support scams through law enforcement. The FTC has opened 17 cases since 2012 and has recovered millions of dollars for victims.