New report on tech support scam paints scary picture

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A new report just released by the Better Business Bureau paints a grim picture of just how much damage a common scam has caused. (KGO-TV)

A new report just released by the Better Business Bureau paints a grim picture of just how much damage a common scam has caused.

The problem is so big, its gotten the attention of the FBI. Here's what you need to know to avoid becoming a victim.

Brian Collard runs a small computer security firm-SFO Cloud. Even for him, computer scams are hard to keep up with. "They change their techniques so frequently that its kind of hard to educate everybody on everything they might use," he said.

Brian wasn't victimized. But his mother was. She fell victim to the tech support scam. "Once I realized there were 1200 viruses on her systems, she's like 'I didn't realize it was that bad,"' said Brian.

A scammer called his mother to warn her that she had a virus and that he would need to remotely access her computer to fix it. But it wasn't until she allowed him that access that her problems really started.

The man who posed as a tech worker from a reputable company instead installed malware on his mom's computer.

Rebecca Harpster is with the Better Business Bureau. "If you ever receive a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or Apple or Dell unsolicited, you can be pretty sure it's a scam," she warned.

The FBI reports that through the first 9 months of 2017, the agency received 41,000 complaints. Losses to consumers totaled $21 million.

"So they say in order to fix the problem, they're going to need you to send money. Most people actually lose money by credit or debit card, but checks are also a popular form of payment," Harpster said.

Brian's mom sent them a check.

When she realized her mistake, she quickly closed her checking account.

Brian did his best to wipe out the viruses.

"From my mother's case, back up the user's data and then reinstall the clean operating system and restore that data back on."

Besides calling, scammers will send you malicious links via email or use pop-ups like one warning you a problem has been detected and that you need to call them.

Malicious links are also sent out via sponsored ads that appear during online searches.

"We do think that search engines should try to vet these ads more carefully," said Harpster of the BBB. "Microsoft search engine Bing actually does not allow sponsored links for tech support."

You can read the full BBB report here.

Produced by Randall Yip
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