If You Get This Phone Call, You’re About to Get Scammed

A concerned customer wrote in after he got a suspicious call from a business that claimed his computer needed to be fixed.

Pondering serious businesswoman in eyeglasses for vision correction looking away while calling on smartphone device and talking about solving problem.Confident young woman communicating on telephoneGaudiLab/Shutterstock

Editor’s Note: Elaine Pofeldt writes “Your Business Credit,” a weekly column about small business and credit, for CreditCards.com. One reader wrote in after he was asked to provide his credit card information over the phone. 

Dear Your Business Credit,

I got a call from someone who said they were from a big PC company. He said there was a problem with my computer he needed to fix and wanted remote access.

He told me there was a charge for the service and asked for my credit card number. I was suspicious and did not give him access.

Now I’m wondering if there really was something wrong with my computer, which I use for work in my small business.

Should I get it checked? – Dan

Dear Dan,

You did the right thing. Big computer companies do not call their clients to announce there is a problem with their computer. Watch out for these other phone call scams that could steal your money.

If companies need to update the software, they generally do it through an automated software update. They will do that if, for instance, they discover a route for your computer to be infected with malware.

Given all of the hacking that is going on these days, you’ve probably gotten alerts of updates on various programs you use on a regular basis.

  • If you haven’t already done so, install software to protect your computer from viruses and malware that might harm it.
  • Make sure you get it from a reputable firm. Some of the big ones are Norton and McAfee.
  • If you still are afraid something is wrong with your computer, call the computer company’s tech support line for help.

See related: What merchants should do when they suspect card fraud

‘Tech support’ scams a growing trend

There is a growing problem with computer repair fraud, as the Federal Trade Commission has reported.

  • In these scams, the perpetrators often pretend to be computer repair shops.
  • Some scammers may call you by phone, while others may send you free “security scams” that appear as popups on your computer.
  • The goal is to get you to give them remote access to your computer.
  • In some cases, they will diagnose a problem that doesn’t really exist and ask you for money.
  • In others, they may install malware on your computer that gives them access to your data and passwords.

Given that this is your business computer, this could mean giving them exposure to data on your clients, too. Sometimes, they may try to get you to sign up for a warranty program (worthless!) to boot.

If someone like this calls you again, stick to your guns and do not give them access – or money! Instead, report them to the Federal Trade Commission. These are the financial scam millennials fall for the most.

What to do if you’ve been a victim of a ‘tech support’ scam

For anyone who may have been scammed in this way, this is what you can do:

  • Be sure to report the scam to your credit card company. That way you’ll be able to change your credit card number.
  • Keep a close eye on your credit card statements for the next few months to see if there are any bogus charges.
  • If there are, report them to the credit card company immediately.
  • Also, file a police report so you have a record of what happened.

When it comes to technology, many of us are not deep experts on the subject and can feel intimidated talking with someone who seems to know more than we do about computers.

Don’t let yourself get intimidated by someone who is throwing around a lot of jargon. Trust your gut instinct.

If you don’t think there is something wrong with your computer, don’t let someone persuade you to give them access – or your credit card number. It can cause a lot of hassles to undo the damage. Also, consider adding your phone number to the national do not call list. Next, read up on these online scams you need to be aware of—and how to avoid them.