A pop-up alert on your computer that appears to be a technical support message could be an effort to steal your personal information, according to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.
The Consumer Protection Division in the AG’s office reports a recent increase in these types of scams, where tech support scammers use pop-ups that resemble security alerts from Microsoft, Apple, or other companies.
The alerts warn that the user’s computer is hacked or infected with viruses. Some pop-ups even feature a countdown clock, supposedly showing the time remaining before the hard drive will be fried, unless the consumer calls a toll-free number supposedly affiliated with one of those big-name companies.
Do not call that number! Instead, you should shut down your computer immediately.
When a person calls that number, scammers may pose as a security, customer, or technical support representative offering to resolve such issues as a compromised email or bank account, a virus on a computer, or to assist with a software license renewal.
“Once a person gets on the phone, that’s when they become most vulnerable to these con artists,” said Hood. “The operators instruct you to go to your computer and hit certain keys or links. When you do this, you are giving the scammers remote access or control of your computer, which allows them to access your personal information and online accounts.”
The scammers claim that they need access to run tests that they claim reveal grave problems that can only be solved by one of their ‘certified technicians’ for a hefty fee. Do not give access to your computer unless you are speaking with a trusted source whom you voluntarily contacted.
In this type of scam, high-pressure tactics are used to strong-arm consumers into paying hundreds of dollars for unnecessary repairs, anti-virus protection or software, and other products and services.