You might think that the main threat to your computer is from viruses. However, there’s been a worrying trend recently which has seen scammers contacting hapless computer owners claiming to be from well-known tech companies like Apple or Microsoft. They’ll tell you that a problem has been detected with your device, and trick you into paying for them to fix this nonexistent issue. If you’re not careful, then these criminals could end up conning you out of a serious amount of cash, so it’s vital that you know what to look for in order to stay protected.

First things first, let’s take a look at the way this scam actually works. There are two ways that the scammers will try and target you. The first is to phone you up directly, claiming that they are from tech support and offering to help you fix a supposed issue with your PC. They will tend to use a lot of technical-sounding jargon to try and confuse you, and sound like they know what they are talking about. What’s more, it’s also likely that they will direct you to an ordinary, harmless file on your computer- and then tell you that it’s a sign that there’s a huge problem. Now that you’re panicking, they will offer to fix the problem by taking remote access of the computer. What they are really doing, though, is making your computer vulnerable to future attacks that could allow them to steal sensitive data like credit card info.
Alternatively, they might tell you that you need to pay immediately for their services- when in reality, there is no problem for them to fix in the first place.

The other way that these scammers may target you is by setting up a fake website, or offering a supposedly free security scan of your computer. Either way, a message will soon pop up telling you that your computer is unsafe, and that you need to take action immediately. You might be directed into phoning the scammers so that they can go through the steps above, or instead to pay for worthless software that they claim will fix your computer. Again, there’s no real issue for you to be concerned about. The scammers know that plenty of people will panic if they are told that their PC or Mac is at risk, and they play on that panic to trick you out of your money.

So, how do you protect yourself from this sort of scam? The easiest way of doing so is to just hang up if you get a call from someone who claims they are from tech support. The truth is, a company like Microsoft doesn’t monitor every PC in the world, and there’s no way they would know if there was an issue with yours. After all, you wouldn’t expect General Motors to call you up at home to tell you that you’ve got a flat tire. Even if caller ID says they are from a tech company, don’t be fooled- it’s possible to fake this pretty easily. The same goes for pop-up messages. Even if they are very hard to close, don’t give in and click on them. It’s better to switch off your computer if you have to, since clicking on these links may automatically install malware.

If you have already fallen victim to one of these scams, then you should ensure you take action right away. Start by changing all your passwords, especially if you use the same password for multiple accounts on different sites. You should also download genuine antivirus software like AVG, and then perform a full scan of your computer to check for and remove any malware that might have been installed. Finally, contact your credit card company, and get them to reverse the charges. The quicker you act, the less severe the consequences will be.