The PC Support Scam: What It Is And How To Protect Yourself From It

Don't be fooled by fake technical support

Woman using compute while on phone in home office

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If you've ever received a phone call or pop-up window from someone claiming to be from Windows Support, and that person tells you there's a problem with your computer, you've been on the receiving end of a PC Support Scam. Here's everything you need to know about this type of con and what to do if you fall victim.

What Is The PC Support Scam?

PC support scammers want you to think there's something wrong with your computer. They prey on your fear and/or lack of computer knowledge to gain your banking information, then they charge you to "fix" a problem that never existed. They might also install malware such as keyloggers or backdoor Trojans on your computer to gain your personal information.

How Does The PC Support Scam Work?

You receive a call from someone claiming they're from Windows Support. The caller ID looks legit. They say your computer is "sending off errors," "sending out spam," or "reporting a virus." The polite person on the other end of the phone has a strong foreign accent and seems very eager to help you "fix" the problem. They direct you to open your Windows Event Viewer so they can show you the "errors," then ask you to download something called Ammyy, TeamViewer, or some other tool so they can connect directly to your computer. They also want your credit card number so they can bill you a small fee for the service.

Alternatively, you might receive a pop-up message on your computer. It might look like an error message, and it might even have logos from companies you trust. It tells you there's a security issue on your computer and gives you a phone number to call. But, real security warnings never ask you to call a number. It's a scam.

The PC Support Scam goes by many other names as well:

  • The Fake Microsoft Support Scam
  • The Tech Support Scam
  • The Ammyy Scam
  • The TeamViewer Scam

Whatever the name, there are a lot of people getting duped by these criminals. This scam has been going on for many years and the success rate only seems to encourage more criminals to take part in it. At first, only Windows PC users were targeted, but now Mac users are becoming targets as well.

How Do The PC Support Scammers Find Victims?

PC Support Scammers generally find their victims in the following ways:

  • Cold calls: This is probably the most common way people encounter tech support scammers.
  • Pop-ups: This method looks like a legit error message, possibly from a company or website you trust. But, it wants you to call a phone number to "fix" the issue with your PC.
  • Online ads: Some scammers run advertisements online or they try to get their sites to show up in online search results.

How Do I Avoid Getting Involved In This Scam?

Don't answer the call. If you get a pop-up, don't call that number either. And if you truly need tech support, go directly to a company you trust.

I’m Already a Victim. What Should I Do?

If you've fallen victim to a PC Support Scam, there are a few things you should do:

Call Your Financial Institution and Tell Them What Happened

If you do business with a larger, well-known bank, they already have experience with this type of scam and will tell you exactly what they can do in terms of putting a security alert on your account, dealing with fraudulent charges, etc. Speak to the bank as quickly as possible. If you wait too long, they might not be able to help you with the bogus charges.

Isolate and Quarantine Your Computer

Unplug the affected computer's network cord and turn off its wireless connection. If you installed the remote admin tool as the scammer directed, they could be rooting around on your computer even after the phone call is over.

Once you've disconnected the computer from the network, read our article on what to do if you've been hacked for information on how to backup your data, wipe its disks and reload your computer. If you're not comfortable doing this on your own, consider taking your computer to a reputable local computer repair technician.

Monitor All of Your Accounts

Consider signing up for a credit ​monitoring/identity theft protection service so you can be alerted if and when scammers try to use your personal or financial information again.

Change Your Passwords

After you ensure your system is free of malware and keylogging software, change all your important passwords. Make sure to ​choose strong passwords when creating new ones.