BBB: Beware Tech Support Scams While Online
UNDATED -- It looks and sounds like they just want to help, but the Better Business Bureau says "tech support" scammers only want to rip you off.
The scam breaks down like this: you'll be surfing the web, and suddenly a pop-up will take up your screen and warn you about an "infection" on your computer. They'll usually throw in a number of viruses detected and a number you can call to help.
Dan Hendrickson, Communications Manager with the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota says, you shouldn't call that number since most likely it's the person who's responsible for your current predicament.
"We believe most often than not it's the people you're calling that actually created the problem, so it's a good idea to not play their game. Just restart your computer and move on."
He adds the most important thing to remember is these scammers can get access to almost everything in one move.
"What's scary though is sometimes these scammers get both your credit card information and access to your computer."
According to a study of BBB complaints about this scam, over 50% of payments to the scammers were made via credit card, with checks being second at 36%. Hendrickson says it's tough for law enforcement to catch these scammers.
"A lot of these operations are run from overseas, so I'd say report the problem, to the BBB, scam tracker, the FTC. I think just knowing this scam is out there and how it works will help people avoid it."
A BBB study says most of the scammers come from India, around 85.4%, 9.7% from the U.S. and 4.9% from Costa Rica. Hendrickson says the amount of money stolen has varied wildly, from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands.
If you fall victim to one of these scams, credit card companies, like MasterCard and Visa usually require you to dispute any charges within 120 days of it happening.
This scam has seen an uptick recently due to the holiday shopping season.