Attorney General Shapiro Takes on Tech Support Scams

March 7, 2019 | Topic: Consumers

Bureau of Consumer Protection saved PA tech support scam victims over $31K in 2018

HARRISBURG — Acknowledging National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced his office participated in a nationwide effort to combat tech support scammers, who try to trick consumers—particularly senior citizens—into buying costly tech support and repair services. The initiative was a nationwide crackdown by 20 bipartisan attorneys general, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.) to take down scammers.

Here is how a tech support scam works: Scammers use phone calls and online ads resembling security alerts from major technology companies to trick consumers into contacting the operators of these schemes and providing access to the consumers’ computers. The scammers will claim consumers’ computers are infected with viruses or experiencing other problems. They then pressure consumers into buying unnecessary computer repair services, service plans, anti-virus protection or software, and other products and services.

“This Consumer Protection Week, I am proud to partner with my colleague Attorneys General, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to keep Pennsylvania consumers from being scammed out of their hard-earned money,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “This collaborative sweep will protect people, especially our senior citizens, from falling victim to tech support scams. This scam itself is a virus infecting Pennsylvanians’ wallets, and initiatives like this are critical to our work to stand up for consumers and ensure they are getting a fair deal.”

The Bureau of Consumer Protection received 478 complaints related to a tech support scam in 2018 and already 114 complaints in 2019. The Attorney General offered a series of tips for consumers and businesses on how to spot and avoid losing money to a tech support scam:

Tech Support Scam Tips

  • If you get an unexpected pop-up on your computer, email or phone call with an urgent message about problems with your computer, stop.Don’t click on any links, don’t call the number in message, don’t give control of your computer and don’t send any money.
  • Callers impersonate well known technical support companies, like Microsoft or Apple, to fool consumers into handing over their personal info or sending money. Don’t give out your financial information or let anyone take over your computer.
  • Real companies also won’t ask for your account passwords. Never share passwords or give control of your computer to anyone who contacts you.
  • If you paid for tech support services, and you later get a call about a refund, that call is probably also a scam. Don’t give the person any personal or financial information.
  • If you have been a victim of a tech support scam, change all your passwords and have your computer screened for malware by a legitimate computer service.

Pennsylvania Consumers who have been victims of a tech support scam can file a complaint online with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection here to get help. Last year alone, the Bureau’s Consumer Protection Agents obtained over $31,000 in refunds for Pennsylvania consumers who were the victim of a tech support scam.

Attorneys General through the National Association of Attorneys General, the Department of Justice, and the FTC worked for more than a year on the initiative. In addition to Pennsylvania, other state participants included Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington DC.

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