Part One: Introduction + Tech Support Scams

Online scams can be defined as fraudulent acts by cybercriminals on the internet, that target financial gain through defrauding unsuspecting victims, and it is responsible for consumer loses up to £2.3bn in the United Kingdom during 2020. Online scamming has also increased in Cyprus in last few years which means that people should be made more aware of these crimes and prevent themselves from falling victims and potentially losing large amounts of money. Therefore, this four-part article series, will attempt to explain how some online scams work (tech support, refund, banking/financial institution and phishing email scams) and inform the readers on how to protect themselves online and be more careful and aware in spotting a scam/fraud attempt when using the internet.

Tech Support Scams

This type of scam starts through a phone-call, an email, a text message or even a popup on the computer/website claiming it is from a well-known company (Microsoft, Apple etc.), stating that the computer has a virus and should be examined and resolved. This scam can also try to persuade the unsuspecting victim, that hackers have access to the computer and that a restoration to remove them should take place.

Once the scammer manages to persuade the victim that the computer has an issue, then the scammer requests to have a remote access to the victims’ computer (through a software which the victim installs) to resolve the issue. When a remote access is achieved the scammer shows some normal functions of the computer which should remain deactivated, and he disguises them as being affected and needed restoration. The scammer, then proceeds to black out the screen (or even the keyboard) of the victims’ computer as “restoration occurs” and basically, by the end of it, makes it seem that the computer is free of any issues. Then the scammer asks for a “licence renewal fee” (if the scam involves an “antivirus software” installation) or a service fee which costs hundreds of euros.

Important note: During the remote access, the scammer has full access to the victims’ computer. He can see and download files, open the camera, add password on victims’ computer which basically locks the victim out, check/steal personal information such as credit card and banking information and even download malicious software on the computer which will in fact make the computer more susceptible to real hackers and viruses.