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Tech Support Scheme Takes New Angle

The Oakes Times of Oakes, North Dakota

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Watch out for 'pop-ups' saying your computer has a virus

Burnsville, Minnesota — October 27, 2015 — Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota ® (BBB) is once again noting an uptick in reports of the "Tech Support" scam. Generally, this scheme is perpetrated over the phone: homeowners or business owners receive calls from 'technicians' saying there's a problem with their computer. But these supposed experts are only interested in collecting credit card information or gaining remote access to users' computers. A newer wrinkle to this scheme involves pop-up messages telling people their computer has been infected by a virus and they need to call the number on their screen for assistance.

"These pop-up messages are often dramatic, using capital letters and exclamation points, in order to get people's attention," said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. "We're advising people not to panic and not to listen to whatever the message is saying."

Based on complaints in BBB files, it appears some of these pop-ups direct people to contact companies which may provide some type of technical support. However, if these companies — as many customers allege — are the ones who make such warnings appear on users' screens, via adware or malware or spyware, as a means of gaining new business, that's a problem.

One such company that appears to employ this tactic — First Choice Tech Support, based in Boynton Beach, Florida — denied in a statement to BBB that they infect people's computers with any malware, adware or spyware. Further, they claim their pop-up advertisements clearly state they are advertisements and can be closed by clicking on an x in the top right corner. However, a consumer who says they dealt with the company recently alleges they had no indication the pop-up was an advertisement.

"We're once again reminding people that when there's a problem with their computer, they call the experts; not the other way around," adds Badgerow. "And simply because you receive a pop-up saying your computer has a virus that may not always be the case."

No matter if you're confronted with this scheme via a phone call or a pop-up message, it's important to avoid allowing unknown parties to gain remote access to your computer. According to Microsoft, anyone given such access to someone else's computer can install malicious software, steal personal information, take control of the computer or direct customers to fraudulent websites where they are asked to enter their credit card information.

BBB offers these tips to avoid the Tech Support scam:

Don't trust cold calls. Remember, computer firms don't call you about a problem — you call them. If a caller claims there's a problem with your computer, hang up.

Protect your computer. All computers should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, antivirus and anti-spyware software and a secure firewall.

Don't let pop-ups panic you. Remember, pop-up messages can't always be trusted. Look for an 'X' to close out the screen. If you're concerned your computer has a virus, call an expert. Research businesses for free at

Address the issues. If you've allowed unknown individuals to gain remote access to your computer, contact a computer expert. If you've supplied your financial information and suspect fraud, contact your bank or credit card provider immediately.

The mission of Better Business Bureau is to be the leader in building marketplace trust by promoting, through self-regulation, the highest standards of business ethics and conduct, and to instill confidence in responsible businesses through programs of education and action that inform, assist and protect the general public. We are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Contact BBB at or 651-699-1111, toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.

Copyright 2015 The Oakes Times, Oakes, North Dakota. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015

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