Protect Your Tech
What’s the threat?
A new type of tech-support scam that without warning launches a phone app – on your smartphone or PC screen – showing a number to call to contact a ‘support team’ (see screenshot). If you tap or click the screen to begin the call, you’ll ring an expensive number and end up speaking to scammers who will try to sell you fixes for nonexistent problems.
Detected by Microsoft’s Windows Defender Research team, this ‘click to call’ scam targets iphones and Windows PCS. It’s accompanied by an audio message that says your device “has alerted us that your system is infected with viruses, spywares, and pornwares”. Next, it urges you to call “immediately on the toll-free number listed so that our support engineers can walk you through the removal process over the phone”.
It also tries to frighten you into calling by claiming that it will be “forced to disable and suspend” your device if you close the mesaage.
This is the latest scam in the cat-and-mouse game between criminals and tech companies. Previously, tech-support frauds would strike as you browsed online, plastering your screen with pop-up alerts that say you need to ring a number for help. Most browsers now let you block or close these pop-ups, thereby forcing scammers to adopt new tactics.
How can you stay safe?
As Microsoft points out in its blog post ( www. snipca.com/26317), genuine error messages don’t contain phone numbers, nor do legitimate support sites try to terrify users into phoning. Also, never tap or click a dialler screen (like the one in the screenshot) that opens by itself. What’s worrying is that the code used to create this scam appears to be from a template, meaning it’s probably for sale on the black market. That means it’s likely to spread and become one of 2018’s most prevalent scams.