We recently had a call from someone pretending to work for BT, who claimed that there was a bunch of issues on our PC that he could easily fix if we only allowed him to connect to our systems. We informed them that we were an IT support company, and we got some colourful language in response.
IT support calls are nothing new for scammers - who doesn’t panic when they think their computer is filled with malware? However, unlike ransomware and phishing emails, these scams are fairly easy to differentiate from the real thing - and without your input, these scammers can’t do anything at all.
We had a chat with IT support engineer Dave Park, about how to recognise a genuine IT support call, and how to spot the scammers before they get too far into their script.
‘Without 24/7 monitoring software, there’s no way that anybody who rings you up should be able to tell what is on, or not on your computer,’ says IT support engineer Dave Park. ‘If they’ve rang you up cold, they definitely don’t know what’s on your computer. We handle the systems and IT support services for hundreds of businesses, but unless a company has asked for 24/7 monitoring, we don’t know that something has gone wrong until they tell us.’
‘It’s really important that you don’t agree to remote access,’ says Dave. ‘Once a perpetrator is on your system, they can install anything they want, access any website and fill your machine with viruses if they want to. Nobody should access your computer remotely unless you know them personally, or you’ve paid them for an IT support service. Businesses like BT don’t do it for free.’
But what about if they know your information? Dave says it isn’t enough, ‘Unfortunately, the internet is laden with information about us. Some of it we put there ourselves, through social media. Sometimes it’s accessed through hacks - a company unrelated to BT can be targeted, and they can get our information that way. Just because someone quotes a few pieces of information about you, it doesn’t mean they are who they say they are.’
So what’s the best advice for avoiding these scams? Dave says it’s to slow down, ‘These groups of people will try to get into your system quickly - whether it’s claims of a virus, malware or an unverified purchase, they want you to panic. But slow down, and have a think about what’s actually being told to you over the phone.’
‘The absolute best thing you can do is tell them you’ll ring them back, and hang up. Give it a couple of minutes if you’re calling on a landline, just to make sure they aren’t still hanging on. Then find the number for BT yourself - don’t ring back the number you’ve been given. Give the real BT a call, and check with them. Nine times out of ten, you’ll have avoided a scam.’