It can be terrifying to discover that you have malware on your computer. This is especially true if you keep essential files like pictures, documents, spreadsheets, and videos stored on your hard drive.
When you discover a critical error on your computer, you may panic and not understand what to do next.
That’s exactly what IT support scammers are counting on — and they’re all too happy to “help.” In just the past two years, that bogus help has cost Americans a whopping $24.6 million, according to the FTC.
So how can you and your company stay safe?
How to Recognize IT Support Scams
First, You’ll See Something Familiar
It might resemble the “Configuring Updates” message you sometimes see when booting up your Windows machine. It might be a website. It might even look like an alert from security software.
And Then Something Designed to Alarm You
Shortly thereafter, you’ll notice an error screen that again, looks pretty normal. It is specially designed to mimic the appearance of a Microsoft or Apple screen. In other cases, it can look like an antivirus or anti-malware security company alert.
Then, A Solution! Or Is It?
Just as your heart is starting to pound, a possible fix is provided. Usually, this fix will come in the form of a pop-up. That pop-up might ask you to call Customer Support, IT Support, or Tech Support. Again, these are cleverly designed to look like the real thing.
Yet if you call, you won’t be talking to a real IT support person. You’ll be talking to a scammer. Soon, they will want your credit card number so they can charge for fixing the alleged problem.
Or they may ask for remote access to your computer. This will allow them to place further malware or ransomware on your machine. They can also access sensitive data, like passwords or financial information.
So How To Protect Yourself?
Back Up Your Data — and Often
First, back up your data to an external hard drive, and do it regularly. You may also choose cloud storage, so that your files are accessible no matter what happens to your hardware.
Keep Your OS and Anti-Virus Software Up To Date
The security measures included with your OS and your reliable anti-virus software will definitely keep you safer from scammers than outdated versions. Or worse, no security software at all.
Don’t Fall Prey To Panic
Never call any telephone number in a pop-up that warns about computer problems, no matter how legitimate it seems. Instead, find the actual IT support or customer service number. To do this, search online or check your software package.
Don’t enter credit card information on any website that such a popup directs you to, either.
After an attempted attack, run a thorough scan of your computer using that updated security software, and change all of your passwords.
Worried about the security of your company’s hardware? Consider contacting an IT consultant to ensure that everything is up to date, or to beef up your protection if necessary.