I Just Fell For a PC Support Scam, Now What?
Some scammers call and claim to be computer techs associated with well-known companies like Microsoft or Apple. Other scammers send pop-up messages that warn about computer problems. They say they’ve detected viruses or other malware on your computer. They claim to be “tech support” and will ask you to give them remote access to your computer. Eventually, they’ll diagnose a non-existent problem and ask you to pay for unnecessary – or even harmful – services.
If you get an unexpected pop-up, call, spam email or other urgent message about problems with your computer, stop.
You just received a call from someone who said they were from Windows Support. The called-ID looked legit. They said that your computer is "Sending Off Errors", "Sending Out SPAM", or "Reporting a Virus".
The polite person on the other end of the phone had a strong foreign accent and seemed very eager to prove their case and help you "fix" the problem. They directed you to open your Windows Event Viewer so they could show you the "errors" and then asked you to download something called Ammyy, TeamViewer, or some other tool so they could connect directly to your computer and "fix" the issue. They also wanted your credit card number so they could bill you a small fee for the service.
You've just become a victim of the PC Support Scam. It goes by many other names as well:
The Fake Microsoft Support Scam
The Tech Support Scam
The Ammyy Scam
The TeamViewer Scam
Whatever the name, there are a lot of people getting duped by these criminals. This scam has been going on for many years and the success rate only seems to encourage more criminals to take part in it. At first, only Windows PC users were targeted, but now Mac users are becoming targets as well.
If you want full details on how to spot this type of scam before you become a victim, check out our article: How to Spot a PC Tech Support Scam. If you've already fallen for the scam and are trying to figure out what to do next, read on:
If you fell for the scam, you should at least do the following.
Call Your Financial Institution and Tell Them What Happened
Chances are, if you bank with a larger well-known bank, they will already have experience with this type of scam and will tell you exactly what they can do in terms of putting a security alert on your account, dealing with fraudulent charges, etc.
DO NOT WAIT TO CALL YOUR BANK, tell them as soon as possible. If you wait too long then they might not be able to help you with the bogus charges.
They will likely put a fraud alert on your accounts and issue you a new card. If they don't offer to do this, insist on it.
Isolate and Quarantine Your Computer
Unplug the affected computer's network cord and turn off its wireless connection. If you installed the remote admin tool as they directed, then they could be rooting around on your computer accessing your personal files, even after the phone call is over. They could also install keylogging malware to record your passwords as you access your bank and other accounts.
Once you've disconnected the computer from the network, read our article I've been Hacked, Now What? for information on how to backup your data, wipe its disks and reload your computer. If you're not comfortable doing this on your own, consider taking your computer to a reputable local computer repair technician.
Monitor All of Your Accounts
You may want to consider signing up for a credit monitoring/identity theft protection service so that you can be alerted if and when scammers try to use your personal or financial information again.
Alert and Educate Your Friends and Family About This Scam
Even though this scam is affecting millions of people, there are surprisingly a lot of people who haven't heard about it and are still falling victim to it. Spread the word and share this and related articles with your friends and family. Educating people is the key to stopping this type of scam.
Change Your Passwords
After you ensure that your system is free of malware and keylogging software, change all your important passwords. Make sure to choose strong passwords when creating new ones.