The FBI has issued another public alert in regards to tech support scams, one of the oldest methods of extortion seen online.

The Bureau reveals that crooks have come up with all kinds of new social engineering tricks in order to fool users into purchasing tech support they don’t need or paying for services they have never received.

These new tricks have led to a surge in complaints at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), with the agency reporting 3,669 cases that caused victims damages of $2,268,982 only in the first four months of the year.

Tech support scammers posing as government employees

The FBI says that tech support scammers have started cold-calling their victims with claims of working for government agencies, taking advantage of the recent popularity of cyber-espionage news.

The crooks say they’re tasked with resolving virus infections and threats from possible foreign countries or terrorist organizations.

In another scheme, the scammers also cold-call their victims and pose as the employees of cable and Internet companies, offering to provide help with their routers and modems that are sending “error messages” or viruses.

Besides cold calls, the scammers also employ their regular mode of operation using emails, online scareware, popups, and most recently even OS-level screen lockers, just like ransomware. Scammers target users of desktops, laptops, and mobile devices alike.

Some victims grant scammers access to their bank accounts

The FBI also reports on another popular trend where the scammer contacts the victim to provide them with a refund on various tech support services.

The scammer convinces the victim to grant them access to their online bank account in order to give them the refund. This is a trick, and there’s no need to give someone access to your bank account in order to send you money.

  In reality, the subject transferred funds among the victim’s own accounts (checking, savings, retirement, etc.) to make it appear as though funds were deposited. […] the subject appears to have “mistakenly” refunded too much money to the victim’s account, and requests the victim wire the difference back to the subject company.  

The FBI says that crooks fooled victims into refunding the money multiple times, resulting in losses of thousands of dollars.

Scammers can get aggressive when being challenged by victims

The Bureau explains that, in most of these incidents, the scammers have strong foreign accents and become hostile or use foul language if the victims question their tactics.

The FBI recommends not letting anyone take control of your computer via the Internet, and more importantly, over your bank account. Regardless of whether the tech support scam was successful or not, the FBI advises victims to file a complaint with the IC3.

A day earlier, the FBI issued another public alert, warning victims of recent mega breaches about extortion attempts. Previously, the FBI also issued warnings on hackable IoT farming equipment and wireless keystroke loggers disguised as USB chargers.

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