AG sees spike in computer technical support scams

| July 23, 2020 1:00 AM

Consumer specialists in the Office of the Attorney General and Boise Police Department are warning Idahoans after a recent increase in reported fraud attempts involving tech support scams. Over the last several weeks, three area seniors lost a total of $14,700. Local cashiers prevented another $6,000 in losses by recognizing the fraud when potential victims went to purchase large sums of gift cards. Boise Police report that all recent victims have been seniors.

“This is not a new scam but the increase in its effectiveness is worth noting,” Attorney General Lawrence Wasden says. “It’s frustrating to hear these stories of honest Idahoans losing money to those who prey on them through very dishonest tactics. My goal in sending this alert is to remind the public that these scammers never rest and their scams never stop.”

Tech scams often start with a pop-up window displayed on a computer screen. They can also begin via phone call, text, or email saying the target’s computer is infected with a virus, or that one of their accounts is compromised. The scammer promises to fix the issue after the victim submits payment. The victim then gives the scammer access to their computer and bank account to pay the initial fee, which is typically $300 to $500. The scammer then contacts the victim about service issues and promises to provide a full refund of their payment. The next step involves the scammer purporting to refund more than the initial charge, even though they have not. The scammer then asks the victim to purchase gift cards to pay back the supposed excess refund.

“That’s concerning, especially since we know there are more instances we don’t hear about,” Fritz says. “The victimization of our older community members is especially troubling. Please consider alerting the seniors in your life who may be a little more trusting and a little less tech savvy.”

Protect yourself from tech scams by following these tips.

• Don’t click on any links or call a phone number in a pop-up window, email, or text.

• Don’t engage with someone who calls you with offers of technical support. Hang up.

• If contacted, don’t send money either by cash or wire transfer and never pay with a gift card. (Payment requested in this form — for tech services or any other — is an obvious sign of a scam.)

• Don’t provide your bank account, credit card, or other payment information.

• Don’t give anyone control of your computer.

Consumers should also keep their computer security software updated and run regular virus and malware scans. Legitimate local repair businesses can help is there truly is an issue.

For questions about whether or not something is a scam, call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 208-334-2424 or toll-free in Idaho at 1-800-432-3545. If you have lost money to a scammer, file a report with local law enforcement.