That Guy On The Phone Offering A Tech Support Refund Is Probably A Scammer

We’ve written before about scam artists taking advantage of consumers’ unease with technology to trick them into handing over sensitive personal info, and now there are scammers hoping to prey upon consumers’ general dissatisfaction with customer service and tech support (and their general love of refunds).

Earlier today, the Federal Trade Commission issued a general warning to the public about these tech support refund scams.

The scam operates in different ways, but there are two general methods.

The first involves the scammer cold-calling consumers, pretending to represent a company that is going out of business and offering refunds for tech support services that can no longer be offered. Of course, none of this is true and there is no refund coming. They just want your bank account information so they can steal your money, or your personal info so they can pretend to be you (and steal other people’s money and services in your name).

In the second version of the scam, the con artist calls up consumers — including some who have been taken by previous tech support scams — under the pretense of checking on whether or not these people have been satisfied with the quality of support they have received. The inevitably unsatisfied customer can then request a refund (that never comes) or is tricked into paying for even more bogus services. Once again, the goal is to get your banking and personal information for criminal gain.

“They might say that you need to create a Western Union account to receive the money,” writes the FTC in a blog post on the scam. “They may even offer to help you fill out the necessary forms — if you give them remote access to your computer. But instead of transferring money to your account, the scammer withdraws money from your account.”

A bit of advice that is always worth repeating (because people learn it the hard way every day) — Never provide any personal or banking info to anyone who contacts you. If they need this information, get a call-back number, do some research to see if it’s a number associated with a company you do business with, and then call them back.

Better yet, just hang up and file a complaint with the FTC.

If you get taken in a scam like this and you’ve paid with credit card, immediately contact your card company and request a chargeback.

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  1. PsiCopB5 says:

    These sorts of cold calls are related to the ones that I, as an I.T. consultant, have had to clean up after. People and businesses get calls from someone telling them their computer(s) have been hacked/infected/etc., offering assistance. They’re asked to open a remote session, during which the scammer pretends to deal with the hacker/infection/whatever. What’s actually happening is that malware is being installed, & the result is that the computer ends up becoming a bot in the scammer’s worldwide criminal network … among other possibilities that are even worse (such as online account logins & passwords getting vacuumed up).

    Often the scammer will claim to be working for Microsoft. Of course Microsoft is not proactively calling people to fix their computers … but they actually make that claim, and too often, are believed. I have never seen anyone’s bank accounts emptied via these means, but I assume it’s happened. And I’ve had to clean up the vicious malware left behind by the scammers. Because of this I always tell the victims to change their online account logins & passwords, especially for banking, ASAP and recommend having their credit & debit cards replaced.

    This sort of thing really happens, and people really do fall for it. I’ve even gotten a couple of those kinds of calls myself (of course, I hung up immediately as soon as I knew what the game was). What’s astonishing is that the victims so readily go along with the scammers’ games, such as demanding they send money via Moneypacks to pay for the “assistance” instead of directly taking a credit card. I’ve even known otherwise-smart people to fall for this crap.