People using social engineering to runs scams posing as tech support isn't exactly new, but that doesn't mean you can let your guard down. In fact, it seems this is a problem that's only getting worse after multiple organisations revealed that last year the number of tech support victims had risen between 24 and 86 per cent.
For the scammers, it's simply a numbers game. Most people won't take the bait, but in 2017, Microsoft found that around 15 per cent of the more than 153,000 people who reported being the victim of a scam (up 24 per cent from 2016) said they lost between $US200 ($263) and $US400 ($526). However, the most tragic incident may have been that of an unnamed Dutch user who admitted to losing over $US100,000 ($131,429) in a single con.
This, combined with data gathered by Microsoft in 2016 showing how two of out every three people had experienced some variation of the fake tech support scam in the previous 12 months, shows how widespread an issue this is.
In March, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released a similar report saying it had seen complaints rise even higher - by 86 per cent to around 11,000, with damages totaling nearly $US15 ($20) million. The IC3 also added that as the number of scammers has increased, criminals' tactics have also evolved, from posing as tech support to pretending to be law enforcement or government officials who are trying to recover losses incurred by support fraud schemes.
So what can you do about it? First, remember that almost any legitimate tech support agent will not contact you unsolicited, and especially not by phone. Also, try to avoid clicking on any suspicious links, and when navigating to sites where you might be entering potentially sensitive materials (like a bank or credit card portal), go to those sites directly by typing their URL into your web browser rather than clicking on links that might have appeared in your email. And if you're still concerned, check out the IC3's list of tips on how to stay safe, and what you should do if you do encounter a scam.
It's a scary world out there and inside the magical tubes we call the internet, but there are things you can do to stay safe.