Computer tech support scam targets British Columbians

For several months, phone scammers have been targeting British Columbians by pretending to be with a reputable computer software company, asking to perform urgent software updates and requesting hundreds of dollars as a fee for their service.

In response to this and other frauds, the Province and Consumer Protection BC are teaming up during Fraud Prevention Month to provide tips to help British Columbians fraud-proof themselves.

Fraud Prevention Month is a national initiative with the goal of fighting fraud aimed at businesses and consumers. This phone scam is a prevalent one. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says it currently accounts for 70 per cent of all fraud complaints in Canada.

The phone scam works like this: Tom, a B.C. resident, receives a phone call at dinner time. The caller explains he is from ‘Microsoft Tech Support’. He asks Tom whether his computer is running slowly and encourages him to download software right away to fix his computer. Tom has found that his system has been sluggish lately so he follows the caller’s instructions and bills the new ‘software’ to his credit card.

The total bill is in the hundreds of dollars.

Unfortunately, Tom has been scammed and has installed spyware, or malware, on his computer. The corrupt program can potentially monitor what he is typing on his computer, including personal information like banking details and passwords.

Here are some tips to protect you and your family from becoming a victim of this ‘virus-fixing’ scheme:

  • If you receive one of these unsolicited phone calls, hang up and do not download anything onto your computer.
  • Do your research and ask questions around all unsolicited phone calls.
  • Get the name, phone number and website address of any company that calls you. Check to see if it is a legitimate company or if a real company’s name is being used as part of a scam. The Internet has a great deal of useful information on scam avoidance.
  • Do not provide any personal information, especially your credit card number.

To stay informed about possible scams and to warn others:

  • Visit Consumer Protection BC on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/ConsumerProtectionBC
  • Report any fraudulent activity to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by calling 1 888 495-8501.
  • Know your rights! If you have questions about your rights and responsibilities as a B.C. consumer, please contact Consumer Protection BC, toll-free at 1 888 564-9963 or online at: www.consumerprotectionbc.ca