Couple Loses $300 to Computer Tech Thieves, BBB Warns Consumers to Be Wary


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By Steve Abel – President of the Abilene BBB | May 1, 2014

Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be extremely skeptical of callers offering computer support services after thieves used the ploy to steal more than $300.The couple said the thieves had tried to take an additional $1,200 from their bank account, but were unable to complete those transactions. While the couple said they were relieved they did not lose more, they remained angry that they were duped.The husband and wife said an unknown caller with a thick accent phoned their home and offered them a $313 lifetime plan to clean their computer and keep it operating efficiently.After the couple gave the caller an identification number from a debit card, they discovered that the men had not only taken the $313, but a total of $1,578 from the account.{{more}}“My faith in people has flown out the window,” the husband told BBB shortly after realizing he had been scammed.The case is among the most recent in the area involving callers posing as representatives of technical support firms. The Federal Trade Commission has issued several warnings about the schemes, saying the thieves’ tactics “have one purpose: to make money.”While it is unclear exactly how many people have fallen victim to similar calls, the FTC has said they are aware of more than 40,000 complaints connected to what are generally called “tech support scams.” Often, callers say they represent well-known companies like Microsoft, but other times they say they are affiliated with more generic, unfamiliar firms. Sometimes they claim they have been alerted that the consumer’s computer has been infected, or they promise to protect the computer from future problems. The goal is to obtain access to banking information so they can withdraw money from consumers’ accounts. The woman said she and her husband initially were contacted the afternoon of March 25 by a caller who said he was in New York and represented a company called PC Clean-Up. BBB could find no information on the company.The woman said they had only recently activated their computer and thought the program sounded like a good idea. She said her husband gave another representative access to his computer and gave him identification numbers from a VISA debit card to pay what they thought was a one-time fee of $313.The woman said the man called again that night and asked for her husband’s driver’s license number, which he supplied. At that point, the woman said she strongly suspected something was wrong.The next morning they discovered that not only had the $313 payment been taken from the account, but also subsequent amounts of $499, $397 and $370.They contacted police and their bank. The bank later told them that the final three charges were pending, and the money was back in their account.BBB offers the following tips to avoid tech support scams:• Don’t turn over control of your computer or give your computer password to someone you don’t know.• Do not give banking, credit card or other personal information to a strange caller.• If a caller notifies you that he or she has detected a virus or other threat to your computer, hang up.• If you have any concerns about your computer, contact your security software company directly and ask for help.• If you do pay for tech support services, pay with a credit card in case you need to challenge the charge. Do not send money via a wire service.• Check BBB Business Reviews by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 325-691-1533