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Tech support scammers are targeting mobile users, researchers say

Lucian Constantin | Jan. 15, 2014
Scammers have devised new ways to trick users into revealing personal information, hand over control of computers and pay for unnecessary software and tech support services, security experts warn.

"It's quite hard to keep your composure when hearing such blatant lies," Segura said. "It's not that the technician is poorly informed but he is in fact fully aware of what he's doing and yet does not have a problem with it at all."

The technician then proceeded to delete some files from the Windows Prefetch folder and then restored them using a keyboard shortcut, claiming this was a sign of the infection reappearing. He then told Segura that he needed to buy a 12-month tech support subscription that cost US$299.

"The scary thing is that many people that aren't too tech-savvy will believe these words at face value and end up paying several hundred dollars for dubious services from rogue technical support companies," Segura said.

While in this particular case scammers used online ads to target smartphone and tablet users, Segura believes they will most certainly use unsolicited phone calls as well. They might also ask users to install remote access software directly on their mobile devices in the future, he said.

Segura's report comes after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission warned consumers about a different scam targeting users who might have previously been tricked by tech support scammers.

It involves scammers calling users and offering them refunds for unsatisfactory tech support service, Nicole Vincent Fleming, a consumer education specialist at the FTC, said in a blog post Jan. 3. There's also a variation where refunds are offered because the tech support company is going out of business, she said.

The goal is to trick users into providing their bank account information in order to process the refund.

"They might say that you need to create a Western Union account to receive the money," Vincent Fleming said. "They may even offer to help you fill out the necessary forms — if you give them remote access to your computer. But instead of transferring money to your account, the scammer withdraws money from your account."

 

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