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FTC targets scammers posing as online/phone tech support

Tech support scams are one of the newest cons the feds are targeting.

December 31, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
It can be tough to get a real live person on the phone at some big name companies. Now scammers are taking advantage of that. Tech support schemes are one of the newest cons the feds are cracking down on. Here's how they work and how to protect yourself.

The "Sisters In Christ" Facebook fan page is colorful, inspirational and popular, too, with more than 170,000 followers. Hackers replaced wholesome posts with "adult content."

Worried about the site's reputation, Teresa Allissa Citro searched online for "Facebook phone tech support" and found several numbers. She called the first one that popped up. The person who answered said for $129 they'd rescue the page from the hackers and keep them out.

"They also were supposedly putting on some kind of a device so that we couldn't be hacked again," said Citro.

Turns out Citro wasn't talking to Facebook. In fact, the social networking giant doesn't even offer "phone tech support." Facebook says: "This was undoubtedly a scam."

The feds say they've received thousands of complaints about similar "tech support" scams.

"The goal is to get consumers to pay hundreds of dollars for unnecessary computer repair services," said Colleen Robbins, a Federal Trade Commission attorney.

The Federal Trade Commission recently launched a major crackdown on tech-support scams, filing complaints against several companies based mostly in India.

"It was very interesting how persuasive the defendants were in trying to trick consumers," said Robbins.

The FTC says scammers rely on two different schemes: They either cold-call you, claiming to represent major companies like Microsoft, Norton, McAfee and Dell; or they lure you into calling fake online tech support listings like the one Teresa Citro fell for. In both instances, the scammers try to convince you to give them remote access to your computer.

"I never expected that I wasn't speaking to Facebook because they answered the phone call with, 'This is Facebook technical support,'" said Citro.

So don't use online search results to find a company's tech support number. Go to the company's website directly and look for that contact information.

Never give control of your computer to a third party that you are unsure about.

And if someone calls you claiming you have a computer problem, hang up.


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