The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning Australians to hang up on scammers who claim to offer smartphone and tablet tech support services.
An example of the scam emerged in the United States recently when Jerome Segura, Malwarebytes senior security researcher, searched for "Android slow tech support" on Bing from his Android tablet. The first two sponsored results led to sites from companies offering tech support for tablets and smartphones.
After contacting one of the companies, Segura was asked by a so-called tech support person to connect his phone to his computer and then install remote access software on the PC so the tech support could access the phone. After connecting through the software and browsing the internal storage of the phone, the technician claimed a malware infection on the PC was causing problems on the whole network and affecting the Android phone when using Wi-Fi.
An ACCC spokeswoman told Computerworld Australia there are several variations on this type of scam, the most well-known being the Windows Event Viewer scam. Scammers, who claim to be from Microsoft, phone up people and say that their PC has a virus. They than request remote access to check the computer.
“The caller will then try to convince you to purchase anti-virus software straight away to remove the infection. The fee may be a one-off payment or an ongoing subscription,” she said.
“As well as losing money by paying for a service that provides you no benefits, your personal and banking details are at risk.”
According to the spokeswoman, once the scammer has remote access to the PC or tablet, they could infect it or steal personal information. “If you receive a call like this, just hang up," she said.
Kaspersky Lab Australia technical manager Sam Bryce-Johnson said he had received complaints about third party tech support companies which consumers found through online search engines.
“While these companies might be operating legally, the fact that they use Google sponsored ads and other search engine tactics shows how consumers can be easily exploited.”
He advised consumers to access official company websites for Australian technical support details.
“Kaspersky does not make cold calls and all return calls to customers will be arranged in advance so the customer knows they are speaking to one of our employees,” he said.
Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick