Have you ever been surfing the web from one of your office computers, and received an alarming pop-up warning about viruses on your computer? The alert might notify you of a potential infection, and urge you to contact their “tech support” for help. It might even claim that your computer is already infected, urging you to take action right away.

It can feel tempting to follow these instructions. After all, you want to protect your business as well as your clients! Unfortunately, many of these alerts are actually scams, and will cause the very problem they warn you against.

Those who fall for the charade often contact “tech support” services and may even grant remote access to their computer. Then, they are reassured that the problem has been located and “fixed”.  Unfortunately, what has actually happened is the “tech support” person has now installed malware on your computer which can access all of your sensitive files. This can lead to a data breach, and the stolen information can be utilized in identity theft schemes and more.

Yes, this situation sounds bizarre, but you’d be surprised at how common it is.  Because the “warnings” appear legitimate, even normally internet-savvy users sometimes fall for the ploy. In the first nine months of 2017 alone, the FTC and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported 41,000 complaints of this nature from US consumers. These fake warning scams caused losses of more than $21 million in that same time period.

Globally, Microsoft records about 12,000 such events each month.

As consumers grow more aware of these schemes, fraudsters only create increasingly convincing stories. You might receive a notice about signing up for some sort of service, and you think, “wait a minute, I didn’t sign up for that”. You reply to the vendor to ask for clarification. Then, a “customer support” person informs you that this situation has been happening a lot lately, and it looks like you have malware on your computer that created the false service sign-up. They refer you to a “tech support” firm, which of course is just part of the scam.

In some cases, thieves actually call you pretending they are from Microsoft and requesting access to your computer because there is a “problem” that they need to fix.  The real problem is them!

If you receive such a notice, phone call, or feel suspicious in any way, remember that you can always call a trusted professional for help. Contact us at 888-RING-MY-TECH and we will review your situation, and help you decide if you’ve been targeted by a scammer. It’s always easier to double check on these things ahead of time, rather than cleaning up a data breach later.