As if we weren’t already fed up with the world of hacking and tech related scams out there, the whiz kids at Facebook and Google have uncovered a breed of scammers that use fraudulent technical support as their modus operandi. The scams involve the culprits placing ads for fake 800 numbers for phony technical support that are intended to lure unsuspecting computer users to call and give out personal information and download various malware and other viruses. While the scam may seem somewhat rudimentary on the surface, experts contend that it is one of the more cunning and craftier schemes out there on the internet today. When laypersons see advertisements in reputable publications for legitimate-looking businesses offering in-demand services and a toll-free number to access those services, it can be extremely difficult to discern what’s real and what’s not.
Toll Free Isn’t Always Free
Most scams of this ilk have traditionally been done online because of how easily and anonymously that internet makes such activity. Working through a toll-free 800 number, however, makes it difficult for even Google to make an accurate assessment of who is legit and who isn’t. But Google has been having representatives post calls to tech and IT support numbers and pose as customers in need of some level of technical support. More often than not these numbers go to places outside the United States which while not necessarily unusual is certainly a red flag. So far the efforts of Facebook and Google have combined to find about 4,000 tech support scams which have fraudulently acquired information from nearly 2,500 legitimate businesses.
Since the ads typically show up on Google’s search results pages and Facebook’s display ads which is part of the reason so many people are so easily fooled. This particular brand of fraud is especially harmful to legitimate online advertisers and the internet advertising industry as a whole because such advertisers suffer intense scrutiny for asking for personal information that they really do need because people are wary of the company’s reputation as a direct result of the scammers. People who fall victim to the individuals suffer serious damage to their credit ratings and can lose significant sums of money by downloading malware and keystroke loggers. These are intended to take personal information that can be used in all manner of identity fraud including obtaining credit in the victim’s name as well as acquiring valuable products and services.
Taking Your Computer Hostage
On several occasions the scammers will use software that locks up the victim’s computer and subsequently force him or her to pay hundreds of dollars for “support” in order to unfreeze their system. Some experts refer to this particular kind of fraud as a form of hostage taking in which the hostage is the computer and the ransom for its safe return must come from the user. Facebook and Google have taken action against these scammers by using both manual as well as automated means to check tech support ads and the web links attached to them looking for indications of a fraudulent activity.