There are many ways that scammers can initiate a scam. This includes "cold calls," when a third party initiates a phone call with you with no prior communication (for example, you receive a phone call from "Microsoft," claiming there is a problem with your Windows, even though you have never contacted Microsoft regarding this). Other times, they may have a sponsored search result on Google or Bing. Simply picking the top ad on a search results page could end very badly.
Once they have made contact with you, scammers will often try to persuade you to call in for remote computer assistance. This allows them to access your computer and then do things that make it seem like you are having problems with your computer, when in reality it is the scammers doing this.
Common tools or techniques that scammers use can include, but are not limited to:
- Using Windows Event Viewer to show "errors" with your computer
- Using Command Prompt for Windows or Terminal for Mac to run commands that output a lot of text on screen
- Changing the color of Command Prompt windows
- Running various network diagnostic tools such as ping, traceroute, or nslookup to simulate malicious connections
- Showing stopped services in Windows Service Manager
To view a more complete list of common scam techniques, along with more detailed descriptions and images, please refer to our Tech Support Scams - Help & Resource Page.
Please be aware that while many scams do occur in other countries such as India, many U.S. based companies have begun using these scam techniques to target users who are not computer savvy.
In general, we suggest that you should exercise caution when dealing with online support companies; if you do not feel comfortable working over the phone with someone, visiting a physical repair shop is always a good alternative.