Tech Support Scams 2.0: A New Twist to an Old Classic

Tech support scams have been around for a long time, and almost anyone who’s owned a computer in the past decade has come across one of them. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book, a scammer calls up a potential victim and tries to get access to their computer and steal all of their data. 

But what most people don’t realize is that, just like every other scam out there, the tech support scam has changed and evolved over time. Nowadays, it isn’t what people think, so let’s talk about tech support scams 2.0.

The Beginnings of Tech Support Scams

When we mention tech support scams, most people remember that old phone call. “Hello, this is technical support. We’ve detected a severe virus infection on your computer…” For years, this was the hallmark of the classic tech support scam. These clumsy attempts to scare users into paying for bogus repairs worked in the past, but over time they’ve become easy to spot. And since this was one of the most common technological scams back in the day, many people learned to hang up on these types of calls immediately. 

But as our technology gets smarter, so do the criminals trying to exploit it. Tech support scams have evolved over time. Now, we’re in the era of Tech Support Scams 2.0 –  a landscape where a single wrong click or a moment of panicked confusion can have devastating consequences.

The New Face of Fraud: Less Calls, More Traps

Back in the day, tech support scammers relied on aggressive cold-calling, hoping to catch a few gullible users. And while there are still con artists doing the same old tricks, there is now a new generation that operates differently. Instead of reaching out to victims directly, they lay intricate traps and wait for us to come to them. 

  • Pop-ups and browser hijacks. Possibly one of the most common variations of the tech support scam, these pop-ups appear when an unsuspecting victim is just browsing the internet and suddenly they get an alert that says something like “System crash imminent”. These fake system errors and warnings have escalated dramatically, mimicking legitimate alerts to trick victims into seeking “help” and getting in contact with the scammers.
  • Malicious advertisements. Even seemingly harmless ads can be dangerous. Banners promising “Free PC cleanups” or “Urgent system updates” often redirect to scam websites or initiate downloads laced with malware.
  • Phishing with a twist. Scammers are getting smarter, and phishing isn’t what it used to be. They don’t send poorly written emails riddled with spelling errors anymore. Instead, they pose as a familiar bank, a software provider you use, or a popular streaming service. All of these messages claim that you’ve been locked out of your account, there have been some suspicious charges, or an urgent update needs your attention. And as soon as you click on the link or call the number, you’re sent to a fake support helpline.

No Longer Just Windows

With the original tech support scam, Windows users were the only ones under attack. The cold-calling scammers claimed they were from Windows support almost all of the time. But once again, things have changed, and the scam has expanded way beyond Windows computers.

Of course, scammers haven’t forgotten Windows users, but their reach now extends to nearly every device that has an internet connection.

Apple devices were once considered as safe as they could be, and people believed that Macs couldn’t crumble. But now, even Apple computers are riddled with these fake system warnings and other malicious pop-ups.

Smartphones and tablets aren’t safe either. While Android’s open nature makes it more vulnerable, even iOS users are targeted. All it takes is one malicious app downloaded from unofficial sources, and you’re in for a world of trouble. 

Data as The New Currency

While the initial goal of many tech support scams was to sell worthless fixes at alarming prices, the focus has shifted to something far more valuable – the keys to your digital life. In other words, they’re after your data.  

  • Stealing passwords. Whether through hidden keyloggers, fake login screens, or social engineering tactics, getting you to give up your passwords is now a top priority. These modern tech support scammers are after the login information for your bank, email, and social media.
  • Getting payment details. Manipulating victims into entering payment information on a scam website, or under the guise of paying for bogus support, is an age-old tactic, but still effective. This is especially used with older generations.
  • Identity theft. One of the most sinister end goals of these scams is identity theft, and a majority of tech support scammers are after your personal information. If they can get ahold of your name, address, and social security number, they can do long-lasting damage.
  • Installing the invisible threat. Often the scariest part of modern tech support scams is the backdoor they install. Remote access tools give scammers control of your device, allowing them to monitor everything you do and launch further attacks.

Final Thoughts 

One thing we all need to remember is that scams never go away, they just evolve into new and more terrifying versions. Con artists are always trying to stay one step ahead of their victims, which is why it’s important to know how these old scams evolve and grow over time. That’s the only way we can stay protected and know what warning signs to look out for.

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