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Tip of the Week: How to Spot a Scam

Tip of the Week: How to Spot a Scam

What would you do if you sat down at your desk one morning, coffee still kicking in, to discover a pop-up message on your computer announcing that Microsoft has detected a fatal issue with your workstation, and if they aren’t allowed to remote in and fix it, the entire network could be at risk? Would you be able to, in the heat of the moment, recognize it for the scam that it is and disregard it?

Tech support scams are only too common, as blending phishing with social engineering has proven to be an effective means of scamming users. Today, our tip will cover how to recognize some of these scams so that they may be avoided… but first, it is important to recognize that scams like these are a serious problem everywhere, and not just for those targeted.

An Issue Around The World
These scams target users all over the world, although the impact is most clearly felt by users in China, India, and the United States. Regardless, other regions are also subjected to tech support scams - and India gets hit with a double-whammy.

The service-and-support-rep-in-India stereotype has its roots in a truly unfortunate reality. The level of competition in the job market is astronomical in India, especially for the generation that should be entering the workforce right about now. For example, a state-owned bank received over one and a half million applications for just one and a half thousand job openings. This job shortage affects even those with high qualifications. Someone could have a Master’s degree in business administration and have to fight for a position as a street sweeper.

Circumstances like these make any job opportunity to inherently be too good to pass up, even if your work comes at the expense of others.

Indian call centers use these circumstances to their advantage, using a secretive and convoluted process to hire those young people in search of a job, often not even revealing the identity of their employer. Applicants are often charged money for their attendance at interviews and job trainings, only being given a start date if they are accepted.

Many of these positions, however, are not the customer support jobs that were expected. Instead of providing customer service, these recruits are used as the initiators of a scam. They call their target and deliver the scam’s pitch, whatever it may be, and send their newly terrified connection to a senior scamming employee who ends the scam. These workers are soon stuck in an unenviable position: their pay is usually terrible and the emotional burden significant, yet there aren’t really any other avenues to make money in the overburdened job market.

As a result, it isn’t long before these scammers, themselves exploited, embrace their position and apply themselves to exploiting others simply to fulfill their need to survive.

Spotting Scams
Unfortunately, even if you feel for the person on the other end of a scam call, you need to protect yourself and your business from their influence. To do so, you need to be able to identify these scams. Below are a few tips for doing so:

  • Who’s On the Line? - Basic rule of thumb: if you get a call from someone claiming to be from “Microsoft” or any other technology brand, it’s almost a sure bet that they aren’t. These organizations aren’t in the habit of reaching out to people first, despite what your (potentially spoofed) caller ID might tell you.
  • Not Something You Want Linked to You - Scammers are also fond of using links, sharing them in an email to send the user to a website that displays plenty of falsified pop-up warnings. These links shouldn’t be clicked, and if you do inadvertently or are presented with a pop-up alert message, restart your computer. Other scammers will use search engines against their victims, using sponsored ads to target those looking for help by appearing at the top of results pages. While Google has put the kibosh on Remote Support IT advertisements, these links should still be avoided as they haven’t stopped everything.
  • Keep Control - Many scammers will pose as an IT resource and request remote access to a computer. Unless you know for a fact that someone from a third party is completely trustworthy, never surrender your computer to anyone. Doing so could easily allow a scammer to steal your data, or do something worse.

The Easiest Way to Avoid Scams
If you just so happen to have a trusted IT resource on your side, you won’t have to worry about scams like these - after all, you can have your provider check any claims and thereby protect your business from fraudsters. White Mountain IT Services can be that trusted IT provider for you. Give us a call at 603-889-0800 to learn more, and in the meantime, tell us about any scams you’ve spotted in the comments!

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