BOSTON (WBZNewsRadio) - The Boston Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning the public of tech support scammers who are targeting financial accounts using remote desktop software as the number of people falling victim to such scams, is on the rise.
Across the United States, 23,903 people fell victim to scammers in 2021, losing more than $347 million. That's a 137 percent increase in losses from the year before. The FBI said more than half of those victims were over 60 years old.
In Massachusetts alone, the FBI reported 106 521 victims, with a whopping total loss of $5,386,594.
The FBI said tech support fraud is continuously evolving. Currently investigators are seeing an emerging trend in which tech support scammers convince their victims that their financial accounts have been compromised and their funds need to be moved. Victims are then often directed to wire or transfer their funds out of brokerage or bank accounts to cryptocurrency exchanges.
Fraudsters will also ask victims to install free, remote desktop software on their computers, which allows the scammer to monitor, manipulate and perform actions within the victims' computers.
“Cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new ways to rip off unsuspecting consumers, and this latest tactic has resulted in staggering losses. In some cases, we’ve seen victims lose their entire life savings which is why we are urging everyone, especially our aging family members and friends, to heed this warning,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division. “Anyone who is a victim of this type of intrusion should report the compromise to us to help prevent these predators from victimizing others, and potentially from re-victimizing you.”
The FBI wants to remind people legitimate customer and tech support representatives will never initiate unsolicited contact with customers. They will never demand immediate payment or request payment in the form of cash, gift cards, wire transfers or cryptocurrency.
Legitimate customer and tech support representatives will never initiate unsolicited contact with customers. They will not demand immediate payment or request payment via cash, prepaid gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency either.
Suggestions for Protection:
- Legitimate customer, security, or tech support companies will not initiate unsolicited contact with individuals.
- Ensure computer anti-virus, security and malware protection is up to date and settings are enabled to reduce pop-ups.
- Be cautious of customer support numbers obtained via online searching. Phone numbers listed in a “sponsored” results section are likely boosted as a search of Search Engine Advertising.
- If a pop-up or error message appears with a phone number, don’t call the number. Error and warning messages never include phone numbers.
- Resist the pressure to act quickly. Criminals will urge the victim to act fast to protect their device or account.
- Do not give unknown, unverified persons remote access to devices or accounts.
- Do not download or visit a website that an unknown person may direct you to.
- Do not trust caller ID readings as criminals often spoof names and numbers to appear legitimate. Let unknown numbers go to voice mail and do not call unknown numbers back.
- Never trust any company-tech or otherwise-requesting personal or financial information.
If you are a victim:
- Run up-to-date virus scan software to check for potentially malicious software installed by the scammers. Consider having your computer professionally cleaned.
- Contact your financial institutions immediately by using the number on the back of your bank card or by visiting the institution in person. Take steps to protect your identity and your accounts.
- Change all passwords if the scammer had access to your device.
- Expect additional attempts at contact. The scammers often share their victim database information.
- Keep all original documentation, emails, faxes, and logs of all communications.
- File a police report at your local police station.
- File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. If possible, include the following:
- Identifying information of the criminal and company, including websites, phone numbers, and email addresses or any numbers you may have called.
- Account names, phone numbers, and financial institutions receiving any funds (e.g., bank accounts, wire transfers, prepaid card payments, cryptocurrency wallets) even if the funds were not actually lost.
- Description of interaction with the criminal.
- The email, website, or link that caused a pop-up or locked screen.
WBZ's James Rojas (@JamesRojasNews) reports