Remote IT support is a benefit to many kinds of computer user. Whether a sole trader, small business or agile enterprise, the ability to be helped by IT experts wherever you may be as long as you have internet is too good to miss out on. You and I know this, but unfortunately, so do the scammers.
One common scam is the ‘remote support scam’. This is where you receive a telephone call purporting to be from Microsoft or other well-known IT company. They tell you they have spotted some suspicious activity coming from your computer and need to fix it. They will direct you to a convincing looking website that features Microsoft branding and something like the pro-level FixMe.IT software.
They then ask you to download the software for them to log in and check for viruses or malware. That is when the trouble starts. Details are stolen, files are copied, identities are harvested and proprietary data is taken without your knowledge. All this information can and will be used against you.
These details are either used directly by the scammer or sold to the highest bidder to be used for a multitude of means. Oftentimes, the scammer will also install malware that will continue to drip feed data to them from your computer. This is obviously a huge security risk both for you as an individual and for the company you work for.
How to spot a remote IT support scam
There are a few things that give away the fact that these calls are from scammers. The first is that Microsoft do not offer remote IT support. They do monitor what you do in Windows 10 but that is completely different. They do not provide such a service and will never cold call you.
The second way to spot a scammer is by asking them questions. Ask them their name, the company they are calling from and even their employee ID and you will soon hear them stutter and try to avoid the questions. Ask them the company they are supporting without telling them who you work for. Or supply a fake company name ‘have you supported ABC CORP for long?’ kind of thing. Then you will quickly know they are fake.
Warning signs of a remote support scam
There are some key warning signs that should alert you that you are being targeted by a remote IT support scam.
You receive a cold call. Most remote IT support is reactive and will respond to a user request so won’t make cold calls to users.
They tell you they can see your computer acting strangely. Unless the company uses a sophisticated user agent, nobody can see exactly what your computer is doing.
They ask you to pay for a check or upgrade using your credit card. A legitimate company would have an account in place for any work that costs. They would not ask a user to pay.
They ask for personal details such as date of birth or full address. The idea of remote IT support is that it doesn’t matter where in the world you live or are. It certainly doesn’t require your date of birth even for verification!
The caller is very persistent or ‘salesy’ and may become aggressive when questioned. Any IT support agent would be fired very quickly if they ever got aggressive with a customer.
What to do if you receive a support scam call
If you or your staff receive one of these calls, the most important thing you must do is not divulge any information. Nothing whatsoever. The very best advice we can offer is to hang up right away. If the call was legitimate, they will call back or call a supervisor or your IT manager. If the call was a scam, they likely won’t call back.
Hang up if the person asks for identifiable information, credit card or bank account details or anything not work related.
If you run a business, make sure all your devices are protected by a good firewall and a competent antivirus solution. Regular malware scanning is also advisable. If you do want to allow remote support, install the agent software ahead of time so your users don’t feel vulnerable. It also speeds up fault resolution if we can log in right away!
Avoid remote IT support scams
The first way to avoid remote IT support scams is education. Educate all users to who does support you and teaching them how to spot support scams as above. User awareness is the single most effective way to avoid this kind of risk and also goes a long way to protecting your business and users from the worst of the internet.
A simple factsheet about what to look for, who performs your IT support and what to expect from both a legitimate support call and a scam one will also help. It is also cheap to produce and update and can form part of any new starter pack.
By being aware, you can avoid the majority of internet threats but there is a better way. By getting professional remote IT support yourself. Then both you and your employees know that you would only ever be called by one of the Dave’s Computers support team. We would identify ourselves by name, would know your name and would be happy to validate the call.
A quick note about FixMe.IT
FixMe.IT is a legitimate piece of software created by a company that is completely honest and has nothing to do with these scams. Their software is used by IT admins across the world to deliver remote IT support and the company has nothing to do with these kinds of criminal activities. In fact, as soon as they are alerted, the company usually cancels the FixMe.IT license being used right away.
Your legitimate support company may use this software as it is very good. If they ask you to download it and you are sure they are who they say they are, don’t worry. Some providers will ask you to install it as soon as they take over the contract. It varies from company to company.
Remote IT support is a great way to have your cake and eat it. It is cheaper than traditional support, doesn’t tie you to specific hardware or locations and is very responsive. If you are interested in having remote support for your business, contact us here at Dave’s Computers today. We are here to help.