Beware of Tech Support Scams

How to spot a tech support scam

Tech support scams are growing at a rapid pace.  It seems you’re always putting yourself out on a limb when you call tech support. You dial the number the company gives you, and perhaps after a while of waiting, you’re connected to someone who may be working on the other side of the world in a completely different time zone. Then you’re asked to give this anonymous person identifying details about your phone or computer and the technical problems you’re experiencing.

Of course, you’re fairly certain the speaker works for your device’s company and you believe it’s perfectly safe to share this information. At the very least, they have contracted with this individual and are tracking their service.

All of that gets a little riskier when you’re asked to allow the tech support agent to have remote access to your device. This step is sometimes necessary to fix the glitch, but it can also be unnerving. Suddenly, it’s as if an invisible person has taken over your screen. Letters you haven’t typed are showing up on the display and the cursor is flying all over the screen, even though you haven’t touched the mouse.

You’re essentially letting someone have free access to a device that houses some of your most personal information. Yikes!

And that’s exactly what tech support scam artists are looking for with their nefarious hacks. It’s truly as awful as it sounds: In these scams, fraudsters contact victims and trick them into granting the scammer access to their computers. The crooks may reach out to people through a phone call, insisting the victims have a virus or another problem they’ve somehow detected from the company’s headquarters. Alternatively, they’ll send a popup to the victim’s computer which will flash dire warnings about an impending or existing virus that can be “fixed” by clicking on a link.

There are several outcomes of such tech support scams, none of them good. Sometimes, a scammer will trick you into installing malware on your computer, claiming you have to click on a link in order to heal your computer of its ills. Other times, they might sell you expensive “software” by making the same false claims. Still other times, they’ll direct you to a bogus tech support website where you’ll be asked to input your credit card information. And they’ll oftentimes simply help themselves to the sensitive data they find on your computer and then wreak havoc on your financial life.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Scams

Tech support scams are nothing new, but a recent wave of these scams has taken on an ironic twist. The very organization that leads the battle in taking down scammers is being exploited for a particularly heinous hack.

Scammers posing as FTC employees are calling victims, asking for remote access to their computers. They assure victims they can help restore any affected devices to their previous working conditions. Many of them are claiming to represent the FTC’s Advanced Tech Support Refund program.

This program was created to help victims of previous scams collect their refund money from the FTC. The scammers will convince the victims that they are moments away from seeing their money – they just need to provide the alleged FTC employee with remote access to their computer. They may also ask for an upfront payment before the refund can be issued or for checking account information, claiming it’s necessary for the refund to clear.

Of course, none of this is true and the caller has never worked for the FTC. In fact, the FTC will never request remote access to your device or ask you to pay to receive a refund. Also, their refunds are sent in check form via snail mail, and do not require any checking account information at all.

The FTC has alerted the public that the only genuine number to call for information about the Advanced Tech Support Refund program is 877-793-0908. If someone calls you on their own, assume it’s a scam. End the call immediately and report the incident to the FTC.  Check here for more info on the types of tech scams out there.

Recognizing Tech Support Scams

As mentioned, the wave of tech support scams in which fraudsters impersonate the FTC are easy to spot if you know this basic information about the FTC: They will never request remote access to your computer, ask for payment in exchange for a refund, or reach out to you on the phone.

Here’s how to prevent other variations of tech support scams:

  • Never click on a pop-up box that claims your computer has a virus and offers to clean it. This will only infect your computer or grant a scammer remote access to your device.
  • Always call tech support on your own; if they call you, especially if you’re not aware of any problem with your computer, hang up as quickly as you can.
  • Never agree to purchase expensive software online to fix an alleged virus.

Feel free to share this helpful infographic and article with family and friends.

How to spot tech support scams
How to Spot Tech Support Scams

If you think you’ve been scammed, tell everyone you know about it and be sure to alert the FTC.  It’s also a good idea to give us a call or stop by so we can take a look at your account and make sure it’s still secure.  Regularly changing passwords to email and other important personal accounts is always a good idea.  

Let’s do our part to put those crooks out of business for good!

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a tech support scam? Share your experience with us in the comments!  You never know who you might help…

5 Cringe-Worthy Credit Mistakes

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You don’t need a special news alert to know…

…we’re all human.

Being human means we’re all bound to make a mistake or two when it comes to making credit decisions. Here are 5 of the most common credit card mistakes. See how many you’ve evaded.

Applying for every credit card under the sun (and being approved). Having a little buying power is great, but too much power can lead to a mountain of available credit and plenty of potential to begin mounting debt. This looks risky to a lender. Stick with one or two and be sure they’re the best card you can carry.

Misplacing your magnifying glass—you really do need to read the fine print. Within that tiny print lies the answer to whether you’ll be paying more to have that credit card in your wallet and how long. Do your homework–there are plenty of companies out there with annual fees, short introductory rate periods, difficult repayment terms, fees to transfer balances and more.

How does your card rate? Low, we hope. When applying for a credit card, you probably didn’t opt to be tied for life to its balance. Not shopping for the best rate can mean paying down a balance for much longer than you might realize. Save yourself some time, money and stress and search for the best rate you can get. The lower the rate, the faster the balance will be paid off.

Don’t listen to mom—less isn’t always more. When it comes to paying off high-interest credit cards, making the minimum payments may seem innocent enough, but it leads to bloated balances. To keep balances low and easy to maintain, don’t charge more than you can pay off within a month or two and be sure to make more than the minimum payment. Your future self will thank you.

Fashionably late or just bad credit karma? Though there isn’t a specific formula to follow for A+ credit, one thing’s for sure: making your payments on time, every time, is the best thing you can do to keep your credit score up. Be the life of your own credit party—be fashionably on time with your payments.

When you’re ready to begin building your own credit or make the switch to a card that’s in your best interest, look to MembersFirst to provide a reasonable solution to your credit needs (even for those who’ve thought ‘guilty’ after each of the 5 cringe-worthy mistakes above.) Visit membersfirstga.com for a list of solutions and details on our various credit card programs and promotions for anyone, at any age and any stage.

What’s your money persona?

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Personality.  It’s what makes us all a bit different.  Sometimes we relate to someone a little better than another based on how eccentric, laid back or direct they are.

Have you thought about how you’re treating your financial relationships?  Are you taking care of your nest egg, so to speak?  Believe it or not, the way you spend cash says a lot about your personality–well, your money persona, anyway.

So, in between all those really important quizzes we take online to determine who our BFF is or what song best represents our lives, why not take one to help determine whether your money-spending (or hoarding) choices are something to be worked on or shared with the world.

With the help of her friend, Lucy, Jen learned a little about her own money persona.  Watch the video, then take the quiz below.


(Pssst…you may want to grab a pen and scratch paper for this one.)

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So, how did you do?  Were you surprised to learn what your money persona is?  Maybe you fell in multiple categories.  Whatever the case may be for you, you can rest easy knowing there are tons of solutions to help you save, invest, make smarter choices with and even spend your money smarter.  You might try checking out our affordable and convenient savings solutions.

We want to hear from you.  Drop us a comment below and let us know how you did.

 

Living On Your Own: Are you prepared?

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When you take a look at your finances — what’s coming in, what’s going out — do you approach each bill or expense as a surprise item rather than an item you’ve prepared for?

Let’s look at it this way… you’ve finished school, you’re ready to move out of your parent’s basement and you’ve got money to burn.  What’s your plan?

If your first thought is more I want a sweet, high-rise apartment, downtown with a view of the city and less I have XX amount available to me each month…what can I afford on that budget?, you might want to rethink your strategy. Take a look at this spending ratio. Try your own.  What can you afford?  Does your dream apartment on the upper west side become a reality or did you just have a reality check?

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Just like you had to prepare a budget at some point so you’d know how much pizza and ramen noodles your budget could take (oh, and those pesky cellphone, internet and insurance bills you may have been forced to pay while living at home), living on your own has its own category of expenses you may not have even thought of.

If you hear the words “renter’s insurance” and your first thought is yes, I’d like someone to ensure that I will obtain rent, then read on a little further, my friend.  While you may have thought as far as what your monthly rent might look like and maybe even where you’d like to live, don’t forget these one-time expenses.

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If you’re lucky, you might have a few friends you can pay in pizza and soda that will help you move.  You might even have the packing materials and a few staple pieces of furniture to help get you started.

Unfortunately, living expenses won’t stop there.

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It’s important to also consider the location you’d like to live and do a little research on monthly rental averages.  A suburban apartment or home may dole out a much more affordable scenario than a renter’s monthly expenses in a more city-like environment.  On top of that, the average rental expense increases and decreases by the area.  Look at your budget… then take a look at this.  Is your budget more Manhattan- or Tucson-friendly?

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So… are you rethinking your strategy for living on your own?  How many household expenses did you budget for?  Is there something you’ll have to give up in order to live comfortably?  Let us know!  Comment and share below.

For more on rent and living on your own, stay tuned.  We’ll take a look a rental agreements–what to look for and what to avoid–and dig a little deeper into your budget to make sure you’re maximizing your income while still being able to enjoy and afford life.  After all, that’s why MembersFirst is here.

Ready to make the switch to a financial institution interested in seeing you at your financial best?  We’re ready when you are.

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Brainy Browsing and Purchasing Tactics

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It seems every time you turn around there’s another item you need—and you needed it, like, yesterday.  A replacement water filter for the fridge, new carpet, an extra garage door opener…

So, what do you do?  If you can’t visit your favorite retail shop, you’ll probably go to your second best option — online shopping.

Whether on your mobile device or a computer, you may have a few of your favorite online shops bookmarked.  Online retail giants like Amazon.com, eBay.com and Zappos.com continually update their safe-purchase policies, but have you checked the security settings of other websites lately?  Are you sure your purchases and personal info is still protected?

There’s plenty you can do to protect your info whether you’re online or out and about.

Spam filters are there for a reason.  Don’t disable (or forget to activate) the spam filter settings on your browser and in email programs.  Though you may not receive notifications each time a suspicious email or a website pop-up is blocked, rest assured the spam filter is doing its job.  If you’re worried it may redirect a legitimate email to the wrong location, just check your spam or ‘junk’ email folder every so often.

Don’t ignore update notifications.  Keep firewall and anti-virus programs up-to-date.  As new malware seems to pop up daily, your computer and mobile device support systems work constantly to keep your content protected by creating new protection policies and pushing them through to you via updates.

Be a skeptic.  If an email or link on a website seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Fraudsters work hard to reach you in various ways.  Don’t assume the email you just received from Aunt Rhonda bragging about the gigantic sum of money she won is legit.  Her email could have been hacked.  Look for phrases that don’t quite make sense, hover over links in emails to see where they point and be leery of shortened URLs that don’t give you clues as to where the link is taking you.

Keep your cards in sight.  Card readers, also known as skimmers, can be present anywhere.  Skimmers retain information when someone runs your card through a smaller machine under a counter or concealed in clothing.  These card readers can even fit over the top of a legitimate card reader at an ATM.  The stolen information can be copied onto another card for use by someone else.  Keeping an eye on your cards at all times and being on the lookout for fake readers can reduce the risk of your information being stolen.

Trust your instincts.  When in doubt, make a purchase from another location or website.  Doing so can save you a lot of time and financial hassle later on.

If you think your personal information has been used by someone other than you or if your cards have been compromised, be sure to alert your financial institution immediately.  The sooner you take back control of your finances, the easier it will be to clean up the mess another may have created for you when unjustly using your information.

If your credit and debit card company don’t come equipped with services like fraud prevention and account monitoring, consider switching to a financial institution like MembersFirst–we take every threat very seriously and will work with you to identify where the information leaks might be.  Don’t put a bandage on the issue; get to the root of the issue by protecting your info as much as you can.