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As we continue our deep dive into imposter scams, we’re taking a look at a new twist on tech support scams. Ever deal with a tech support scam? A warning pops up on your computer. It says your computer has a virus and gives you a number to call for help. You often end up paying hundreds of dollars to a scammer who pretends to deal with the fake virus. Now scammers are upping the stakes — instead of hundreds of dollars, people are unknowingly handing over tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to tech support scammers. Here’s how.

Tech scammers still use fake security pop-ups to get you to call a number. But instead of telling you there’s a virus, they now say someone hacked your bank, investment, or retirement account and is using it for fraud. To “help,” they transfer you to another scammer who pretends to be with a government agency (like the Federal Trade Commission or the FBI) or the fraud department at your bank. The scammer says the only way to protect your money is to transfer it to a new account. The problem is the scammer controls that new account and quickly cleans it out. 

Other scammers take the same approach but tell you to “protect” your money by buying gift cards and sharing the numbers on the back, buying bitcoin and sharing the account information, or withdrawing cash or buying gold and dropping it off to someone in person.

Here's what to know:

  • Never call a number on a security pop-up warning. Pop-ups that tell you to call tech support are always scams.
  • Never move or transfer your money to “protect it.” Only a scammer will tell you to do that.
  • Never give someone a verification code to log in to your account. Scammers want it to get into your account.
  • Call your real bank, broker, or investment advisor if you’re worried. And use a number you know is real.

Learn more about tech support scams. And tell the FTC about tech support scams at

A pop-up says to call tech support? That’s a scam.

Our “Anatomy of an Imposter Scam” blog series breaks down how to recognize, avoid, and report business and government imposter scams. Read more.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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Edward Shwery
March 12, 2024

Very clear and helpful advice

David Zeitzer
March 15, 2024

Thank you for this service it has probably saved me a lot of money since I am now an informed person.

Joey Grzeskowiak
March 19, 2024

Can you tell me how they are able to send a pop-up to random computers even when you’ve blocked pop-up’s on your computer?

Ryan Murphy
March 20, 2024

In reply to by Joey Grzeskowiak

They already have the malicious code on your computer. Once it's placed there, the goal is to take your money and collect your information.

March 25, 2024

In reply to by Ryan Murphy

Will a service like McAfee or Norton be able to identify the malicious code to which you refer? What's the best way to check and make sure your personal computer is free of that malware?

March 19, 2024

In reply to by Joey Grzeskowiak

I don't think they can but the browser will report a pop up was blocked (at least mine does). Also having an ad blocker is helpful since some sketchy ads that say things like "your computer is infected, click here for a free computer scan" may show up on some sites. Clicking on those types of ads only leads to trouble.

March 21, 2024

In reply to by Joey Grzeskowiak

Depending on what pop-up blocker you use, it may not be set to block every pop-up. If a computer is infected with malware or adware, that could also cause pop-ups to appear.
Scammers also don't rely solely on pop-ups. They may purchase ads or pay for sponsored links to lure you to their website instead of the company you were actually looking for. Another trick scammers use is getting a phone number that is 1 digit off from the legitimate company so they can rip off people who misdial, or doing the website equivalent by setting up a lookalike website that is a common typo off from the legit website.

Matías Morin
March 19, 2024

need information to report scams-emails and phone calls

Lizzie Chandler
March 19, 2024

You are so right I've had the one to pop-up on my computer saying that my computer was locked and I needed to call the 800 number that was flashing on my screen but I called our IT support person and he told me that was a scam and to press certain keys on my keyboard and I did, so I learned a valuable lesson that day.

Nancy Willetts
March 19, 2024

This (almost) happened to me. While trying to check my Prime acct I got the flashing message. I did not call the number. Instead I called the number on the back of my credit card. Got someone who said they could help me as they were able to contact Microsoft. After hours of his help, I ended up getting all of my money out of my bank acct and was told to deposit at an ATM. Something did not feel right. I went back home and called the card company and was told this was a scam. I called the police. The officer took my report. The scammer did not get my money. I just could not believe this could happen, since I called what I thought was a safe number.

March 19, 2024

I am so thankful I added my email to receive this FTC Consumer Alert Newsletter. Information provided in the newsletters is invaluable for Consumers! Thank you.

Patricia Baeder
March 19, 2024

Thanks for that informative article. We have to be very careful.

Jerry Williams
March 19, 2024

been there I just cut my computer off and stay a way from it 12 hours and it is gone

Carolyn S Davis
March 19, 2024

Thank for this information, with AI, it makes things worse. Thanks for the guidance, I will share it with others.

Linda Watkins
March 20, 2024

I just had a call today. First the pop up on the iPad screen. I called the number and was told my account was used to buy child porn on the dark web. He started asking account questions so I hung up. Now I know I did the right thing.

Marilyn Blum
March 21, 2024

I had that scam several years ago where a large red alert came on my screen and I couldn't get rid of it, even if I shut it down and re logged in. I actually went to my ATT store for help. Please tell us what to do if this happens.

March 21, 2024

Thank you for well thought precautionary ways to identify Scammers.
What happen to the laws that punishes those who are accessory of doing fraud or Crime?
Why people do not worry about the consequences of doing fraud or scams?

Juliana Agler
March 25, 2024

Thank you for helping with all this info.!