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Tech support scammers? Not so organised criminals

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Technical support scams have been around for years, but they’ve been rapidly increasing in popularity.

Imagine this: You're browsing the internet, and suddenly a website opens, forcing your browser into full-screen mode. It shows a variety of flashy pop-ups and banners, saying "access to your computer has been blocked for security reasons." The website prompts you to call the support help desk of a well-known technology brand immediately and warns you that your personal information is at risk if you ignore the warnings.

You have come across a "technical support scam," and it is perfectly safe to simply close the browser. Technical support scams have been around for years, but they’ve been rapidly increasing in popularity, especially on unlicensed streaming sites for movies and sporting events, and other scam sites. These fraudulent companies have grown savvier and adopted more aggressive tactics to lure vulnerable people.

The process begins when you visit such a site, and you are redirected to a different site that hosts the technical support scam. The scam site impersonates real error messages designed to trick you into believing they're genuine software support services-on behalf of major technology companies. Most often the error messages contain fake virus warnings or highlight outdated antivirus software. Or they might show a Windows "blue screen of death", an error screen displayed on Windows following a fatal system error.

Tech support scams don’t necessarily target specific individuals or even actual customers of the brands that they impersonate. They are a global problem potentially affecting everyone. While researching an increase in scams that target the Norton brand, NortonLifeLock Threat Labs also observed tech scams that target customers of
Apple, and

Scammers often adjust their scam websites to reflect differences in geographic regions to better trick victims into believing they're seeing authentic errors. For example, the next screenshot shows the same page as above, but the language and phone number have been adjusted.

Even though stories of people victimised by scammers are widely covered in the news, the scams continue to be a profitable business model for fraudulent organisations because unsuspecting users continue to fall for them.

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