Older Adults Are Hard Hit by Tech Support Scams

Posted by Susan Dupre on 4/5/2019

Online crooks have been exploiting our fear of computer hacking for quite some time. Through a phone call or pop-up warning on your computer, the scammers make you believe that your computer is compromised. They often claim to be from Microsoft or Apple, and they can spoof phone numbers so that the calls appear to be genuine.

Here's the scam: The crooks convince people to hand over remote access to their computers and then proceed to "troubleshoot." Then, they ask for credit card information to cover the cost of repairs that didn't really happen. At the same time, the crooks can and download all files and email messages while they have access to the computer. They can also install spyware that lets them gather information in the future. 

Last year, people reported losing $55 million to tech support scams. Credit cards were used most often for payment, and that's good--credit card companies can reverse fraudulent charges. However, some crooks tricked victims into giving them the PIN numbers on the back of iTunes or Google Play gift cards--and that money is simply gone.

People over 60 were five times more likely to report losing money to these scams. Help your family understand how to avoid these scams:

  • Do not click any links or call a phone number that pops up on your computer screen warning of a problem.
  • Hang up on unexpected calls from anyone who claims to be tech support.
  • Don't believe your Caller ID--phone numbers can easily be spoofed.
  • Never give control of your computer or share passwords with anyone who contacts you.
  • Keep your security software up-to-date. 
  • If you need help, contact a family member or a computer technician that you trust.  Don't rely on a web search.

If you've already been scammed, change any passwords you've shared and scan your computer for malware. If you gave out a credit card number, call the credit card company, and check your statement for unexpected charges. 

Finally, if you get a new call about a supposed refund for computer-support scam victims, it's just more scam--hang up immediately.

Source: Fletcher, Emily. "Older adults hardest hit by tech support scams." Federal Trade Commission. 7 March 2019. Available: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/data-spotlight/2019/03/older-adults-hardest-hit-tech-support-scams