Computer Scams

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Over $21 million dollars. That is the amount of money consumers reported as lost to tech-support scams in the first nine months of 2017. In one variation of this scam, computer users receive a pop-up message on their screens telling them their computer has been hacked or infected with a virus and directing them to call a toll-free number for assistance. In another variation, people receive phone calls from scammers who say that their computer has a serious problem and offer to help them fix it. Either way, your computer is not really at risk, and the person on the other end is a scammer waiting to trick you into paying for computer support services you don’t need, empty your bank account, or even steal your identity.

How the Scheme Works

Scammers make unsolicited phone calls or place misleading pop-up Internet advertisements to try to convince unsuspecting computer users that something is seriously wrong with their computers that must be fixed immediately. Scammers often pose as representatives of reputable, well-known computer or software companies.

Once a scammer has a person on the phone, the scammer often asks to remotely access the person’s computer. Once inside, the scammer can download malware, steal passwords, or try to sell unnecessary services or products—including products that are available elsewhere for free—for non-existent problems.

Scammers often try to trick people into paying for services they don’t need by opening a program on their computer that logs various activities, like error and warning messages. The scammers use these messages, which are usually harmless notations that occur when a computer is functioning normally, to convince people that something is seriously wrong with their computer.

Tips to Avoid Computer Scams

What to Do if You’ve Been Scammed

If you have been contacted by a computer scammer, you may report the matter to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office as follows:

Office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-3353 (Twin Cities Calling Area)
(800) 657-3787 (Outside the Twin Cities)
(800) 627-3529 (Minnesota Relay)

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