Pro­tect Your Tech

Computer Active (UK) - - Contents -

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.

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