Consumer Corner Column

Consumer Corner: Tech support scams aim to take over your computer, not to fix it

Release Date: Aug 27, 2014

In last month’s column, we mentioned a few telephone scams that involve a scammer impersonating someone to try to get into your wallet, usually by wiring them money. But, there’s another type of phone scam going on that also aims to steal your personal information and maybe even hijack your computer.

 In this scam, the caller will say they are with a well-known computer company, like Microsoft, and they need to install an update on your computer to keep you protected from viruses. If you will just give them a little bit of information about your computer they would be happy to install the update for you.

 But, instead of protecting your computer from a virus, the scammer is actually trying to install one that will let them take over your computer. Once you give them access, they can see all of your files, including any personal or financial records you have saved. They may also use your computer to send out spam emails or viruses to your contacts.

 In addition to accessing your computer, the scammer may try to sell you antivirus software, extended warranties or technical support services that you do not need. These can result in monthly charges to your credit card.

 If you do need help with your computer, ask a trusted friend or family member, or take it to a reputable electronics store for help. Never give out personal information, passwords, computer serial numbers or your IP address to a stranger on the phone.

 If you’ve fallen victim to one of these scams, take your computer in to a reputable electronics store to have any viruses or harmful software removed. Once you have confirmed that harmful software has been removed, change your computer’s password, and the passwords to any important websites you may have accessed while your computer was compromised, such as online banking or credit card websites.

 You can also file a complaint with our Consumer Protection Division online at or call (800) 432-2310.