With U.S. consumers falling victim to the “technical support scam” in greater numbers than ever before, the AARP Fraud Watch Network today launched an initiative to raise awareness of the scam and educate consumers about how they can protect themselves.
A survey released last month by Microsoft found that over the past year two-thirds of consumers have experienced the tech support scam, in which fraudsters pose as technicians from one of the major computer companies. AARP’s effort to educate consumers includes online content, advertising and media appearances featuring renowned security expert and Fraud Watch Network Ambassador Frank Abagnale.
“If you or someone you know receives a call or an email from someone identifying themselves as a technician with Microsoft, Google, Apple or some other well-known technology company, it is likely to be a scam. Just hang up the phone,” said Abagnale. “The large computer firms never make proactive calls or send email to provide unrequested technical support.”
Executing the scam via telephone, email or even pop-up ads, the scammers inform a targeted person that a virus or some other security problem has been detected on the victim’s computer, and offer to make a repair. Instead, their goal is to gain control of the computer, access personal files and passwords, and obtain credit card information to charge the consumer for the supposed repair or a warranty program — which proves to be worthless.
The Microsoft survey indicates that 20% of the people surveyed around the world continued with a potentially fraudulent interaction after the first contact. This means that the victim downloaded harmful software, gave the scammers access to their computer, visited a scam website, or provided a credit card or other forms of payment.
Interestingly, of the victims who continued interacting with the scammers, half were millennials (ages 18-34). Thirty-four percent were between ages 36-54, and 17% were age 55 or older.
Abagnale advises consumers never to give control of their computer to a third party, nor to provide a credit card number to pay for unsolicited repair services or warranty programs.
For more tips about how keep yourself safe from technical support scammers, visit the new Fraud Watch Network web page at: www.aarp.org/TechScams. The site includes detailed descriptions of how fraudsters execute their scams, video and other content, and a list of recommended “Dos and Don’ts” when dealing with a suspected fraudster. An educational booklet, published by Microsoft and the FWN, can also be downloaded from the site.
Abagnale, who was named AARP Fraud Watch Ambassador in 2015, has been associated with the FBI for more than four decades, and has advised and consulted with hundreds of financial institutions, corporations and government agencies around the world. Abagnale’s story was told in his best-selling book, Catch Me if You Can, and in the 2002 movie of the same name, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network was launched in 2013 as a free resource for people of all ages. The website provides information about fraud and scams, prevention tips from experts, an interactive Scam-Tracking Map, fun educational quizzes, and video presentations featuring Abagnale. Users may sign up for “Watchdog Alert” emails that deliver breaking scam information, or call a free helpline at 877-908-3360 to speak with trained volunteers.