Austin-area woman tricked by tech support scammers–Don’t be the next victim

scam imageAn Austin-area resident was recently victimized by a tech support scam by people posing as employees of Microsoft.

She got off light– a $54.07 charge that she later got back after disputing the charge with her credit card company–but for a time, the scammers took control of her computer and held it hostage. Tech support scammers often take their victims for a lot more money.

“I normally don’t answer calls like that,” she said. “The caller ID said the call was from Georgia. My daughter was traveling and I thought it could be an emergency, so I picked up. They said they were working for Microsoft Tech Support. They said my PC was gonna crash if I didn’t do something.”

She said felt the call might be fishy, but remembered that she had received some legitimate emails from Microsoft that she never opened. She followed the caller’s directions, which allowed him to take remote control over her computer. “There was no mention of money at first,” she said.

Before she knew it, the scammers had locked up her computer so she couldn’t do anything without their permission. Then, of course, they demanded money. “They took my computer hostage and put up a rolling screen,” she said. “He said I would have to pay $49.95 to get it back. They ended up charging me $54.07. I called my credit card and said it was a scam and disputed the charge.”

The Federal Trade Commission recently announced that a group of tech support scammers was being hit with a $51 million judgment. Unfortunately, there are so many people running similar scams that it will barely make a dent in the problem. Your BBB regularly gets calls from consumers who have been called by such scammers. Here is some advice about how to avoid this scam and others like it:

  • Never let someone log into your computer remotely. If someone tries to get you to let them access your computer remotely, hang up. When someone logs in, they can do anything you can do on your computer. They can access anything, including personal and financial information.
  • Do not click links in emails. It is better to type the address in the search bar manually.
  • If the URL seems odd, do not continue to go to the site. If it is a scam, it will most likely have an unusual URL. It will likely contain a common name but be accompanied by some jumbled letters or numbers.
  • Always look up the company’s phone number on their website. If you need to call a company, look it up on their official website. This can make sure that you are calling a legitimate number. Don’t rely on Caller ID or official-looking emails, which can be easily faked.

For more advice on scams, visit