Tech Support Scams: Beware Pop-Up Windows and Redirects

By George Khoury, Esq. on May 23, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Nearly every internet user has encountered some form of the tech support scam in their browsing history. Although these tech support scams are rather common, the level of sophistication can vary as the majority of these are just online phishing scams.

The most common tech support scams involve a user getting a pop-up window, or redirected to a webpage, that warns the user that their computer is or may be infected by a virus. From there, the user either downloads software recommended by the warning, or calls a phone number. In either scenario, a scammer will be trying to either get the user to send them money, or steal bank account information, or other sensitive data.

You've Reached Tech Support: How Can I Scam You Today?

Tech support scams use various forms of pop-up windows and redirects to confuse and scare novice internet users. Sometimes the pop-up shows that a scan was completed on your computer that identified harmful viruses or malware. Some of these scams will even warn that your computer has been traced by the FBI or other law enforcement agency.

Sometimes the scammers pretend to be from Microsoft, or Apple, or another reputable company. Generally, companies will not notify you about issues via a web browser pop-up. However, be wary of pop-ups that are designed to look like system messages.

Frequently, these scammers will be rather sophisticated and will be playing a numbers game. They set up a pop-up that scares as many viewers as possible into thinking they can get in real trouble, or their computer will be destroyed by a virus. The scammers then tell users the only way to solve the problem is by paying for and downloading their anti-virus software, or calling a phone number. If a victim is lucky, the software will do nothing. All too often, the "anti-virus" software will actually be malware.

Tech Support Hotline Scams

Another way these scammers operate is by getting victims to call the tech support hotlines offered in these pop-ups. Users should independently source major companies' phone numbers, rather than use the ones provided by a pop-up. Generally, these pop-ups should just be ignored. 

Once on the phone, a scammer will convince a user that there's a virus on their computer by claiming a normal system file, or other normal file that is actually supposed to be on a computer, is really a virus. Once a user trusts the tech support scammer, they will ask a user to allow them to get remote access to fix the problem, sometimes even for free. Once a user allows a scammer remote access, then the scammer can install all sorts of software, malware, and viruses, as well as access your entire system.

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