MONTPELIER, Vt. – Attorney General T.J. Donovan is alerting Vermonters about a tech support scam as part of a nationwide crackdown on fraudsters who try to trick consumers into buying fake tech support and repair services. The tech support scam is the third most common scam reported to the AG’s Consumer Assistance Program. The scam uses fake pop-up ads purporting to be Microsoft, or another legitimate company, to lure consumers to send money for virus protection or other tech support. This scam may also be done by phone.
Mary Kerr of Ferrisburgh was recently tricked by this scheme. “I was worried something was really wrong with my computer,” she said. “But, in the end I realized these people were fraudsters. They tried to take my money and there was nothing really wrong with my computer,” she said. “In fact, I had to take action to stop them from accessing my computer after that,” she said. “I don’t want anyone else to fall into the trap.”
In a tech support scam, 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 try to pressure consumers into buying unnecessary computer repair services, service plans, anti-virus protection or software, and other products and services. In some instances, consumers pay for these products or services, but never receive them. In other instances, the scammers will install malware on computers and steal sensitive information.
Donovan released a “Scam Alert” to thousands of Vermonters alerting them to the scam. “Vermonters need to be careful when responding to a sudden pop-up on their computers,” Attorney General Donovan warned. “If you get a pop-up warning like this, remain calm and remember a legitimate tech support company won’t ask you to place a phone call.”
Attorneys general from across the country through the National Association of Attorneys General have joined the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and other regulators to combat tech support scams. As part of this effort, NAAG and the Department of Justice announced a sweep of elder fraud cases and focused particular attention on tech support scams as a major threat to senior citizens.
The FTC has just released updated guidance for consumers and businesses on how to spot and avoid losing money to a tech support scam, available here. This includes a new three-minute video featuring a consumer who fell victim to a tech support scam.
Vermonters who would like to report scam activity or sign up for Scam Alerts may contact the Attorney General’s office through the Consumer Assistance Program at 800-649-2424 or at www.ago.vermont.gov/cap/consumer-complaint.