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Here’s how they work:

You get a call or message from someone who says they’re a computer technician. Or a number appears in a pop-up message on your screen. Or maybe you’re looking for tech support and call a number you find on a search engine. The person on the phone says they’re from a well-known company like Microsoft or Apple. And they tell you about viruses or other malware on your computer. Maybe they’ll ask you for remote access to your computer or say you must buy new software to fix it.

But are they someone you can trust? Judging by reports to the Federal Trade Commission, no. Tech support scammers will try to sell you useless services, steal your credit card number, or get access to your computer to install malware, which could then let them see everything on your computer (including your account passwords).

Here’s what to do:

  1. Hang up. If you get an unexpected call from someone saying there’s a problem with a computer — hang up, it’s a scam. If you need tech help, go to someone you know and trust — and call them at a phone number you know to be true (the ones that show up in your search engine aren’t always legit).

  1. Pass this information on to a friend. You might know these are scammers, but chances are, you know someone who doesn’t.

Want to know more?

Sign up for Consumer Alerts at ftc.gov/ConsumerAlerts.