How to Protect Against Technical Support Scams

What are Technical Support scams?

In a Technical Support scam, a scam artist will try to contact you by phone or initiate contact via a website (often through a pop-up window in your web browser).  The scammer will claim to be a representative from Microsoft, or sometimes pretend to be from UC Berkeley Technical Support.  They will highlight common concerns regarding your computer, such as viruses or malware.  They will offer to "fix" these manufactured issues by connecting to your system.

What is the possible impact of such scams?

The goal of the scammer is to gain remote access to your computer, and once they have achieved that (via legitimate remote desktop software, such as LogMeIn) they will do one or more of the following:

  • Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive information, such as your online banking account name and password (they might also then charge you to remove this software).
  • Convince you to download software that will allow them to take control of your computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable.
  • Request credit card information so they can bill you for phone services.
  • Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.

Many of these scammers have shell companies or fake entities with full websites and toll-free telephone numbers that you can call.

How can I protect myself from Technical Support Scams?

Legitimate technical support services will never contact you and ask for a credit card or other financial information, or offer services in exchange for subscriptions and fees.

Per Microsoft's website, if someone contacts you claiming to be Microsoft:

  • Do not purchase any software or services.
  • Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the "service" -- if there is, hang up.
  • Never give control of your computer to a third-party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.
  • Take the person's information down and immediately report it to your local authorities.
  • Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone claiming to be from Microsoft or UC Berkeley technical support.

Review the following resources for further protecting yourself against Technical Support scams:

If you are a UC Berkeley faculty or staff member and have legitimate technical support concerns about your computer, contact UC Berkeley Campus IT Client Services: