I will drive for a week with my car’s Check Engine light blinking, but if a security warning shows up on my computer, I act immediately. Scammers have been taking advantage of people like me, who care about computer security. They ran operations in the US and overseas that used pop-up messages and phone calls to convince people their computers needed fixing. The callers pitched unnecessary — and sometimes harmful — tech support services that cost people time and money. The FTC announced four new cases against these operations today, and — along with its state, federal and international partners — launched a national and international effort to stop these scams and get money back to the victims.

Tech support scams often start with a pop-up that wants you to call now, or else...  If you get an urgent message like this, don’t click, call, send money or give anyone control of your computer.

Tech Support Scams

The fraudsters in these cases sent ominous pop-up messages that looked like security warnings about things like viruses or malware. The messages urged people to call a toll-free number. The telemarketers who answered falsely claimed they were connected to well-known companies like Microsoft, Apple or Norton. The telemarketers tried to convince people there were serious problems with their computers, and sometimes got remote access to the computers to run fake “diagnostic tests.” They persuaded people that ordinary things on their computers were real problems. Then, they tried to get people to pay for software or services they didn’t need to “fix” problems that didn’t exist.

If you get a pop-up, call, spam email or any other urgent message about a virus on your computer, stop. Don’t download anything, don’t call the number on the pop-up and don’t give anyone control of your computer. If you think you downloaded malware or gave a cybercriminal access to your computer, update or download legitimate security software and scan your computer. Delete anything the software says is a problem. And be sure to report tech support pop-ups and calls to ftc.gov/complaint.