IT support scams seem to be all the rage with offshore con artists lately. These fraudsters cold call or simply aggressively advertise to pull victims in and make them believe they are dealing with large, reputable companies like Microsoft or HP. Once they have made contact, they persuade users to give them remote access to their computers. Typically, the agent uses Windows’ built-in Event Viewer to display a list of routine errors (inevitable on any PC) and claims they are viruses that need to be expensively removed.
Some of these agents also allegedly look for and steal private information on their victims’ PCs, all while charging a typical rate of around $300 to “clean out the viruses.”
Ars Technica has run a story about an undercover FTC investigation into one such scamming operation, a company in India called PCCare247. The company employed 115 people at one point and pulled in $4 million in revenue in a single year, just in the United States.
This particular group may be out of action now, but many more are still around. I just recently had a victim of one of these scammers bring in a perfectly virus-free PC for cleaning based on the word of one such agent. In particular, the elderly and younger people who are less computer-savvy are vulnerable. It’s also important when searching for technical support from a particular company to ensure that the link you click on is from that company’s real domain, e.g. hp.ca rather than hp-support.pcsupport.com or something along those lines.