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The Rise of Tech Support Fraud: Tips To Protect Older Adults

July 17, 2023

Originally published in the Daily Local News

Scammers – we all know they are out there, and we think we’re prepared to spot them. But with advanced technology and the introduction of artificial intelligence, scammers are getting more creative, convincing, and difficult to identify. You may be less prepared than you think.

People of all ages are susceptible to being scammed, of course, but older adults are targeted for a few reasons: they are believed to have more money in the bank, and their computer skills are often less developed than that of younger generations. According to the 2022 FBI Elder Fraud Report, more than 88,000 older adults over age 60 lost a staggering $3.1 billion.

It may then come as no surprise that tech support fraud is, by a long shot, the most common type of fraud crime committed against older adults. Last year, 17,810 victims over age 60 experienced tech support fraud—a more than 24% jump from 2021. Alarming, right? I thought so, too. Here is what you need to know about tech support fraud so you can protect yourself or the senior in your life.

Prepare yourself!

Tech support scams can seem very realistic and come in many forms—and anyone can fall for them. A few years ago, my father—a highly educated and computer-literate man—found himself a victim of such fraud when he responded to a pop-up message on his computer. The message urgently warned him that a virus had been detected and instructed him to call the phone number listed before the virus wreaked havoc on the system. “It looked just like any other warning message, and it made it seem like it was an emergency,” he recalls. It was only after a slew of phone calls and a lot of headaches that he was able to get things sorted out before the scammers gained remote access to his computer and financial accounts. According to the Federal Trade Commission, pop-up warnings will never ask you to call a phone number. If you are concerned that your computer might have a virus, directly contact someone from the anti-virus software company you have installed on your device.

Some scammers call folks over the phone, claiming to be a representative of a tech support company alerting you to a non-existent issue with your computer. You’ll be asked to pay a fee over the phone with your credit card so they can fix the issue as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the so-called tech support specialist is only after your credit card information; any legitimate tech support company works to address issues that you, the consumer, bring to them—never the other way around.

Protect yourself!

Here’s how to avoid tech support fraud:

  • Use anti-viral software from a trusted company and keep your subscription up to date.
  • Never give out your credit card or bank account information to someone who calls you.
  • Avoid clicking on pop-up links, regardless of how legitimate they seem.
  • If you are concerned about the security of your computer, call the customer service number of your anti-virus software company directly.

If you do find yourself having been duped by a tech support scammer, contact your financial institution right away to have the charges removed or cancel the credit card. You will also want to contact your local police to report the crime. Above all, if something seems fishy, it probably is. Trust your gut and err on the side of caution!