BBB: Jacksonville woman loses $4,600 to new twist on tech support scam

Warning of new variations of common tech support scam prompts consumer alert


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida's warning of new variations of the common tech support scam have prompted a consumer alert that everyone needs to know about. 

The warning comes after a Jacksonville woman became the first reported victim in the United States to fall prey to one of the new versions of the tech support scam -- a scam so elaborate that she lost thousands of dollars from her savings account. Even worse, the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told News4Jax that the scammers continue to contact her via phone. 

The elderly victim said she was scammed out of of $4,600 and she doesn't believe she will be able to financially recover from the loss. 

"I won't be able to because I know I will not get my money back," she said. "And now there are some things I won't be able to do because I don't have that money."

Last year, the scam artist called the victim and told her he was a tech support employee of Microsoft. 

"They had it set up so that it sounded like they were in a call center," the victim said.

She said she agreed to pay $150 to update her computer software. 

"That's scam No. 1. She paid them $150 a year ago for software that probably didn't exist," said Tom Stephens, presidents of the local BBB. "A year later, she gets a call from them saying, 'Your certificate is expiring. We're going to give you a refund.' And it just all seemed natural."

The victim then gave her bank information to the scammer. But instead of receiving $150 back, she saw more than $4,000 had been transferred to her checking account.

"She said, 'You've given me too much money.' And they said, 'Oh my goodness. That's a mistake. That's supposed to be a refund for one of our really large accounts.'" Stephens said. 

The scammer then had the woman send the money to his account. She said she later learned that cash actually came from her own savings accounts, it wasn't really a mistake, and she had sent all her money to the scammer.

The BBB said it was a well-planned scheme. 

"I've never seen one exactly like that," Stephens said. "And the thing that really amazes me -- they're planning this a year ahead." 

The victim said she's still getting calls from the crooks. 

To avoid becoming a victim of the same scam, remember three important things:

  • Microsoft will never call you to offer unsolicited tech support.
  • Never provide remote access to your computer unless you are 100 percent sure you are dealing with a legitimate tech support person.
  • Never give out bank account information unless you initiate the phone call.
  • Watch for new twists on tech support scam

    After new versions of the common tech support scam popped up on the BBB Scam Tracker, the BBB wants to make sure you know the warning signs of these costly scams.

    In 2016, the tech support scam was determined to be the eighth most risky scam of the year, with a median dollar loss of $299, according to the BBB.

    “Con artists target victims’ money and personal information with tech support scams,” Stephens said. "If you fall for a tech support scam you are not only vulnerable to identity theft but may lose hundreds, or as we’ve heard from recent victims thousands of dollars.”

    Here are three common varieties of the tech support scam:

  • Phone call: Victims receive an unsolicited phone call from someone claiming to work for tech support. Many scammers will falsely associate with well-known companies like Microsoft, Apple and Best Buy's Geek Squad, sometimes through caller ID spoofing. The caller will inform the victim that their computer is sending error messages or viruses have been detected on a computer or laptop. A new version of this scam indicates the victim is due a refund from tech support.
  • Pop-up message: Victims report that a message appears on their computer that reads and sometimes includes an audio message that viruses are attacking the computer. The pop-up displays a helpline number to call to correct the issue.
  • Locked out of device: Victims have reported that they cannot access their computer, laptop or tablet because they've been locked out or have the "blue screen of death." There is typically an associated phone number to call for instructions on how to unlock the device, but the phone number leads to a scam artist. This could also lead to the ransomware scam.
  • All three tactics lead to a phone conversation between a scammer and a potential victim, in which the scammer attempts to convince the victim to provide remote access to their internet-connected device, the BBB said.

    Never provide remote access to a computer or other device unless you can verify the legitimacy of who you're working with, according to the BBB.

    Once remote access has been granted to a caller, the scammer can:

    • Access files and data saved on the device (files containing personally identifiable information) that can be used to commit identity theft.
    • Take control of the device, lock it and demand money for access.
    • Install viruses and malware onto the computer.
    • Demand money to remove the viruses intentionally installed by the scammer.

    If you receive an unsolicited call from someone offering to help with computer troubles:

    • Hang up the phone.
    • Do not give someone you've never met remote access to your computer. Legitimate computer help technicians will not call unsolicited to offer help.
    • Keep anti-virus protection up-to-date.

    If you receive a pop-up message or locked screen notification, turn off the device immediately and wait for some time before turning on again. If the message persists, seek out a trusted professional in your community to assist, don't accept help from people who call unsolicited. The BBB can help find a company you can trust.

    To help warn other consumers, report scams to the BBB Scam Tracker.

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