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Avoiding tech support scams

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You’re working on your computer when, suddenly, a message pops up on the screen: “Virus detected! Call now for a free security scan and to repair your device.” That’s a tech support scam. Don’t call, text, or email. Legit tech support companies don’t operate that way.

Scammers pose as big-name companies and use pop-up messages, fake websites, and phone calls to trick you into thinking your computer has an urgent problem. Their plan is to get your money by selling you worthless software, enrolling you in fake programs, or getting you to pay for useless tech support. The scammers urge you to call a toll-free number immediately, threatening that you may lose personal data if you don’t.

When you call, the scammer might ask you to give them remote access, pretend to run a diagnostic test, or tell you they’ve found a virus or other security issue. They try to sell you a security subscription or other “services” that range from worthless (for instance, they’re available for free elsewhere) to malicious (they install dangerous software that can help them steal your personal information.)

What should you do? If you get a pop-up to call a number to fix a virus on your computer, ignore it. Your computer is almost certainly fine. But if you’re concerned about your computer, call your security software company directly — and don’t use the phone number in the pop-up or on caller ID. Use a number you know is real, like the one on a software package or your receipt. Tech support scammers like to place online ads pretending to be legitimate companies, so be sure you have the correct telephone number for the real tech company before calling.

And if someone asks you to pay for anything — including tech support services — with a gift card, cash reload card, or a wire transfer, that’s a scam. No legitimate company will tell you to pay that way. If you see that, report it at

July is Military Consumer Month. Share this video with the military community to help them avoid tech support scams.

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Tagged with: imposter, military


I have been getting these calls non-stop for the last 5 years . I got scammed twice, and even had my computer held as ransom . I didn't get my money back, and I still get phone calls, and I wrote down the numbers of the last few callers . I am still waiting for some help in getting money and justice for them harassing me non-stop. When do I win ?

Did you pay $ by credit card? Did you give access to the computer? Did you take cash out to pay the company?

I paid with a credit card for computer aid and they took over my computer, now what do I do?

When I get these, I turn off the computer (pull the plug) and restart. Never lost any data.

Yes, I have learned to do that - pull the plug immediately to prevent the computer being locked by these scammers.
My computer crashed the first time it happened to me when I was taken by surprise and did not pull the plug quickly enough but instead tried to log off. Fortunately my computer was still under HP warranty and I got the help needed to get it working again. Even just trying to log on to Youtube can result in getting a threat of the computer being locked.

The next time you issue this alert, please consider providing instructions on how to get rid of the pop-up. In my experience, the popups are "modal", such that you cannot access any other program on your computer while the popup is displayed. On a Windows machine, you have to hit Control+Alt+Delete to bring up the Task Manager and end the process that controls the browser. Even then, sometimes, when you restart the browser, the popup comes back. You sometimes have to restart the machine to get rid of it. I don't know how to do this on a Mac or Linux OS.

You might also note that this scam also comes by way of a phone call telling you that it's Microsoft and a problem has been detected on your computer and they try to have you allow them onto the computer so they can fix it.

Thank you...have been receiving constant notifications and almost fell for it till they asked for money! Now how do I get them to go away!

Thank you again for this important information. I appreciate your newsletters, Continued success on your part.

Thank you, FTC, This is great advice! I have helped people recover from being scammed by these kinds of folks. Just hang up and ignore them!

The amount of times my parents get that pop-up is unbelievable. These scammers change their phone number so fast, they will never get caught. The FTC needs to go after the companies allowing these ads to be displayed and make jail mandatory for everyone in the process. The advertisers, the credit card processors, the crooked agents on the phone and the scumbag owners of these companies. They are stealing, plain and simple. So many people fall for the scam, it makes me sick to read the FTC blog. My parents now know to just power the computer down and start it back up. And if they have a question, call the AV company phone number on the software installed, don't google the number as bogus ads pop-up. Keep going FTC, Get into India and other countries where they moved.

I like what you said about policing by the FTC. You mentioned the credit card processors in your list. I agree! And the banks should be more culpable! Since scamming is so common, I see they are very experienced, but still have policies that make it easy!And they may even profit from these transactions!They therefore have no stake in protecting the consumer.


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sometimes these pop ups seem to lock your computer.just reboot by control/alt/delete. if that doesn't work reboot your modem.

That has happened to me 2xs within a month I try to close the window but cant.The last one was supposed to be from Microsoft and was going to give me a fone number was teleling me what to do through my headset.IT STRICTLY SAID DO NOT SHUT DOWN YOUR COMPUTER glad that is what it said and that is what I did then restarted computer and ran a quick scan it found nothing.My name is tucker not sucker.

I recently received pop-up pages, allegedly from Microsoft. I was able to block them. Last year during a time my computer was having issues, my technical support, through Dell, had directly connected me to Microsoft to resolve a software problem. The next day "Microsoft" attempted to access my computer without permission. When I reported it to both Dell and Microsoft, they didn't want to be bothered addressing the attempted hack. As a result, I cancelled my Dell service contract and sent a letter directly to Microsoft's Legal Department; no response. Legitimate tech companies need to address user concerns and be more pro-active in protecting their customers.

Thank you, FTC, This is great advice! I have helped people recover from being scammed by these kinds of folks. Just hang up and ignore them!

Thank you for posting.
I still run Windows 7 and I get these "scams" monthly. Usually saying call Microsoft at a given number.
I shut down the computer and run Security - as you stated my computer does not show any Virus.

What do you do if the message locks your screen - reboot (hard or soft)? Try task manager and close out all internet connections? Other???

I get a msg when I open the home page of google.First it says highly recommended by PCVark
1 You may need to scan your computer
2 scan now to diagnose,3 do you want to scan now?Then it says start scan.I let it sit there do nothing.I check my computer a lot through a lot of processes find no problems.

Thanks for this info I saved it in my bookmarks.

Thank you for this great article. I would love to say I have not fallen victim to this type of scam before, but sadly I have on multiple occasions. However, now that I am better educated, I hope to never again fall victim to this type of scam.

There is another one on here called luminosity test.It wants your email address birthdate,and age and first name it also runs through tests I got out of there as I don't know what it leads to.It also wants your occupation

This happened to me. As soon as the voice with an accent asked for money to fix the problem, I knew I was in trouble. My computer is still compromised so I only use my tablet to transact sensitive business. We still receive phone calls soliciting money to fix the problem.

Everyone. Please read and heed. I fell for this and it was costly. And they keep calling.

That almost happen to me i received a phone call saying he is from tech support i have a virus on my computer, but guess what i hang up , i knew it was a scam for quite a while i heard about this scam sometimes it sounds legit it's not don't fall for it really and pay attention

I received another phone call last week--which I didn't answer, but my answering machine did--claiming to be from Microsoft. The person said they could no longer provide me with the tech support I had paid for and wanted to send me a refund. Having been scammed by that kind of thing before, I just ignored it. They are still out there!

I just received a phone call not 10 mins ago stating they were from Microsoft tech and needed to issue me a refund. there is no such thing as "free" money, Just hang up =)

I get phone calls re:Microsoft Windows that my computer information is going to be hijacked and to phone and speak with their security team -- at least one a week! Caller ID shows a number in Wellman, IA.

These scams often have a one-two punch. They trick people into overpaying for "virus protection" and they gain access to the victim's computer and harvest information off of it. Then, months later, they call the victim and say they are owed a refund because the company is going out of business. They have the victim log into their online banking WHILE THE FRAUDSTER IS DIALED IN. The screen goes black and the fraudster initiates a "refund" (often a transfer from one of the victim's other deposit accounts, credit card, HELOC, etc.). They then tell the victim they erroneously did an overpayment (say they were told they were getting a $500 refund but it shows $5000). They tell the victim the only way to resolve it is to purchase gift card codes and send them. It is important for consumers to know that they usually wait three months or more before calling them about the "refund". Anyone who falls victim to the computer virus scam must be made aware this can happen further on down the line.

I received this exact same thing. I told them if they wanted to give me a refund, just send me a check. No, they wanted me to open up my computer and allow them to deposit it in my account so I could verify I received it.

This just happened to me and lost $18k my family savings have gone. I feel embarrassed and angry.
Is there anyway to get this back?
I called my bank and because I participated with the store cards it’s not classed as fraud but a scam and say I can’t make a claim.
Thank you

Hello, today I just got this message of "microsoft warning" saying I can lose my data and pictures might end in porn sites. It gives a phone of: 1-888-819-3111.
it will not let me close the site. I don't know what to do.

The one I've encountered a couple of times is one where they want my admin password and $349.95 to fix stuff that they claimed was wrong with my computer. It's interesting how most of those scammers have foreign accents.

My father got one of those calls when he was working on my computer. The caller claimed to want to fix his yahoo email and insisted on getting my admin password. My father became upset when I told him it was a scam and that I'm not giving my admin password to anyone. I talked to the caller and again he insisted that he needed my password and my credit card number. Again, I said no. I told him not to call back. Never heard from that particular scammer again.

Wish I had been better aware of this three years ago when i got ‘suckered’ into the scheme!

I had the warning and was quite worried. I, however, called Apple support because I was unable to get rid of the pop-up. They were able to talk me through the process (and, yes, they had joint control of my computer but I called the store where I bought it) and we were able to get fix the problem.

How do you know when someone is an imposter? I understand the scam part but not entirely the imposter part. What are the digital signs?

I do not understand why the FTC cannot stop this SCAMS?

Excellent article and very useful. Thank You.

What do you do if you already gave them money and remote access too your computer? How do you get rid of them?

I get phone calls like that. I just hang up.

Thank you for your advice.

This "alert" might have been useful about ~4 years ago.

Here's some additional FTC information: This 2013 blog has tips on getting money back after a tech support scam. In 2014 we told about cases against several phony tech support companies. Learn more at

I like to share this information with my church congregation to protect them while on the computer, is it ok to share this.

Yes, it is OK to share this. We appreciate it when people share these tips! All FTC information is free to copy, print out and share, becuase it's from the federal government. You can make paper copies of this blog, or forward the blog post, or copy the words and put them into your own email. Thank you!

I had my screen popup with huge letters telling me I needed to a phone number. The screen was frozen and blinking. I tried everything I could think of even rebooting the computer.So I called. The people were very convincing that they were Microsoft employees. They messed with my unit for hours and wanted $400. I realized this was a scam and told them I wouldn't pay. They shut my unit down. I then pulled the battery let sit,reinstalled the battery and restarted it in doss, did a recovery, then restarted it. It worked fine

Yesterday I was hit with a scam from am ":Indian" accent person who claimed to be associated with McAfee Customer support.


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