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Crime & Safety
Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Tech Support Scams And Fake Customer Service Numbers


Many people are savvy enough to know that tech support scammers often reach out to potential victims by phone or with a popup.

Even if the person takes a few minutes to look online for a number to reach popular streaming services and online shopping services such as Netflix, Microsoft, Amazon, Roku, or another type of online service for help, BBB advises to use caution. Scammers will post fake customer support numbers online to fool callers into purchasing unrelated computer software or use a convincing script to remote access a device to cause all kinds of technical issues the user didn't need. Unfortunately, many large companies have been affected by this scam. 

Your laptop or mobile device is acting up or a streaming service is freezing repeatedly. A quick search online reveals the customer support phone number, typically a toll-free number. Once dialed, a “representative” answers and with a few pieces of information provided, the "representative" declares that the account is compromised. The "representative" reassures that they can provide proof that the account was hacked; however, they first need remote access to your device.

By this time, the desire to get the account recovered and information back could be overshadowing the decision to allow a complete stranger to remote access your personal computer or mobile device. Scam artists often will install malware that records passwords, key strokes, or other files that contain personal information.

According to BBB Scam Tracker reports, this scam is often used as a setup for selling expensive computer security software, costing victims between $200 and $900. Unfortunately, it does nothing to fix things that were never hacked in the first place.

To protect yourself from tech support scams, refer to contact information listed directly on the business's website. Never allow a stranger remote access to the computer or mobile device. Avoid clicking on popup boxes or ads stating that something is wrong and install virus protection on your computer.