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Security & privacy

7 tech support scams going around right now

“Your computer has a virus. You must purchase this software now or your computer will crash. Better yet, has your car warranty expired?”

Scams are frustrating, but nothing gets to us more than tech support scams. When you’re looking for help and are desperate for a solution, criminals strike. They’re after your money, of course. That’s why the best protection is a shield of information.

Here are seven tech support scams circulating right now. We’ll show you what to look for so you can avoid them, brought to you by the tech support pros at Solve iQ.

Don’t fall for ransomware, either. Here are details on the latest ransomware scam and how to protect yourself.

1. The Roku scam

This is a newcomer to the scam circuit. After purchasing your new Roku, a number will flash on the screen telling you to call it for activation.

Once you call, they’ll ask you to pay for an annual subscription to start your service. Sounds pretty legit, right?

What makes this a doozy is its integration with the software. The message appears at the right time when you would assume you would need to purchase a subscription to their product. No one is calling you or emailing you out of the blue.

Take a glance at Roku’s webpage or call them up and they’ll confirm: There is never a charge for a subscription to their service.

2. Antivirus bills

Antivirus software is a must these days, so scammers have a huge market here. As is typical with phishing scams, criminals also prey on a common fear we all have: Being charged for something we don’t want. If you receive an email threatening to charge you for antivirus software unless you call to cancel, don’t take the bait.

Smart tip: If customer service is reaching out to you and not the other way around, it’s likely a scam. Just like all those calls about your expiring car warranty!

3. Home Depot

Hackers lurk everywhere, even in Google search results. A simple search for “Home Depot” might lead you directly into your worst nightmare. At first glance, this scam is almost undetectable. It appears as an ad at the top of your search results and even shows the proper domain name. Click on it, however, and it won’t bring you to HomeDepot.com.

Instead, you’ll be redirected repeatedly, finally landing on a page that will try to force you to buy your way out of the pop-ups and attacks. To avoid detection, the ad lays dormant, only redirecting an unsuspecting victim once every 24 hours.

There’s nothing you can do to spot this scam ahead of time, but you can follow this simple rule of thumb: If you know the website address, don’t do a Google search. Just go there directly. If you do have to search, click an organic result, not the ad.

4. The trial period is set to expire

Here’s another adaptable hacker scheme. You receive an email or get a pop-up telling you your free trial is about to expire. If the crooks behind it are lucky, it’s for a product you own or a service you use.

That’s how they get you. It’s why IRS phone call scams are so popular, like this one. Everyone owes taxes at one point or another.

Specifics aside, the tactics are the same. They trick you into calling them, patiently waiting for you to take the bait, then direct you to a website. From there, you either download something dangerous or end up giving the hacker direct access to your computer.

Smart tip: Keep track of your free trials and mark their ending dates on your calendar. That way, you’re less likely to fall victim to these clever games.

5. MacBook scam

Mac users like to think they’re safe from hackers trying to get into their computers. Scammers definitely want you to think that. The truth is, you’re just vulnerable as everyone else.

Scams like these target people who are either unaware of current tactics or unfamiliar with technology. They use pop-ups or emails to convince you your MacBook has come under attack. Call Apple directly, they say. Just use this phone number!

Don’t fall for it. Apple will never contact you or urge you to contact them, ever.

6. Phone pop-ups

Think your phone isn’t a target like your computer? Sadly, that isn’t true anymore. The annoying pop-up ads that attack your PC or Mac can also appear on your smartphone. Here’s an example:

Don’t trust these pop-ups. There are no certified programs out there that would freeze your phone (or computer) in this way. The best way to stop this is to force quit all your apps.

How to force quit on iOS:

  1. On iPhone X or newer, swipe up from the bottom of your screen and stop when you reach the middle of the screen. On an iPhone 8 or below, double-tap the Home button to show recently opened apps.
  2. Swipe right or left to locate the browser app you were using.  
  3. Swipe up on the app’s window (without tapping and opening it) to close the app.

How to force quit on Android:

  • Swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
  • Hold your finger in place for a moment, then let go. You should see several of your most recently used apps.
  • Locate the browser app you were using and swipe up on it to close.

7. Microsoft is always a target

Windows tech support scams are so prevalent, Microsoft warns you about them right on its website. Windows is the most commonly installed operating system by far, so it makes sense for cybercriminals to focus their efforts there.

The most common scam is, of course, a fake problem with your Windows device. You’ll get a pop-up telling you to call Microsoft tech support so they can fix your computer. The number isn’t a legit one, and, if you call, you could get talked into handing over access to your machine.

Once again, Microsoft tech support will never contact you first. They’ll only interact with you once you initiate the conversation. Plus, they never use pop-ups telling you to call.

How can you protect yourself from these sneaky tech support scams in the future?

These are just seven of the myriad of tech support scams out there. This list doesn’t include the countless phone scams and ransomware schemes that will really ruin your day (or year). So, how do you protect yourself?

  • Keep your antivirus software updated and always purchase from a reputable company.
  • Never open emails from senders you don’t recognize. If you do, check the sender details and preview the URLs by hovering your mouse over them to see where they’ll lead you.
  • Always use official channels to contact support. Don’t do a Google search to find a phone number. Go directly to the company’s website and find it there.
  • Put on your English teacher hat. Do you see grammar or spelling mistakes? That’s a tip-off.
  • Never give someone your personal information or your bank account number. A true tech support individual will never ask.

The best offense to protect yourself from these scheming hackers is to be able to identify a scam before you fall for it. Here are three more email scams you’ll want to watch out for.

Get help you can trust

Finding tech support online or, worse, waiting for someone to contact you is so risky. Kim gets countless tech support questions and can’t answer them all. That’s why she found a company you can trust: Solve iQ. When your printer won’t work, your mouse won’t connect or your drivers are out of date, they can help you get everything working in a jiffy.

For only $9.99 a month, you can call a real person in the United States to get help whenever you need it. You can call as often as you want. When everything is running smoothly, Solve iQ makes sure it stays that way. Its patented software works behind the scenes to optimize your system.

What are you waiting for? Raise your PC’s IQ right now, while it’s on your mind, at SolveiQ.com/Kim.

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