Don’t Get Scammed: Fake Support Phone Calls

In our last Mac Tip we talked about how to avoid downloading malicious programs when you’re surfing the web — but not all security risks are quite as easy to figure out. Over the past few months we’ve had quite a few clients tell us they’ve received phone calls from people claiming to be tech support, reporting that they have viruses and all sorts of nasty stuff on their computers.

We hadn’t planned to write a Mac Tip about this today, but just now, at our all-Mac shop, we got a called from “Windows support”, claiming we they had detected “serious issues” with our computer. These scammers are reaching out to our very homes and cell phones to try and trick us, and it’s time we got it out in the open.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, these calls do not come from Microsoft or any other real tech company. Neither Microsoft, nor Apple, nor Norton or McAfee monitor your computer for viruses or issues from a distance, and none of them will ever call you directly, without any preamble, and try to get access to your machine.

The goal of these calls is to trick you into giving them access to your machine, ironically allowing them to install viruses and adware, lock your machine remotely, charge you for programs you don’t need, and ransom your data for money. It sounds scary, we know, but don’t worry — these people still rely on you to give them that access, and with a little bit of “street smarts” you’ll be 100% safe against them.

A phony call like this will give you plenty of clues to determine whether it’s real or not. First of all, because the majority of people own Windows machines, scammers will invariably say they’re calling from Microsoft or some other PC-affiliated brand. If you own a Mac, none of these companies have anything to do with you — and someone claiming there’s a problem with a computer you don’t have should be a big red flag.

If a caller or email gets past that point, keep in mind that no legitimate company will ask you for your credit card details or ask for access to your machine over the phone. We periodically accept payments by phone and offer support through remote tools like TeamViewer, but only if you call us first. A real tech company won’t need your passwords or personal info over the phone, so if someone asks, just hang up.

Whether they get access or not, if you’re concerned about your machine’s health at all, you are better off calling Apple or Microsoft (if you have a PC) directly, or bringing your computer into a local, physical store so you can judge the safety of the firm you’re working with. We are a small shop and don’t offer telephone support, but in our experience whether your machine has a problem and needs repair, or you simply need a hand learning how to do something, one-on-one training or in-store repair gives consistently better service.

As always, if you have any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions for future newsletters, please hit reply and let us know. Thank you for reading Mac Tips!