Online Fraud May Happen to You, But You Can Prevent It

First Republic Bank
June 17, 2021

  • Did you know that technical support scams are on the rise? Losses related to tech support scams more than doubled, from $146.48 million in 2020 to $347.66 million in 2021.
  • There are a few simple ways you can protect yourself from these types of scams.
  • First Republic Bank is here to help you protect your finances (and your devices) from scammers.

Digital devices have become an integral part of our daily lives. Unfortunately, fraudsters know and take advantage of this by launching scams that target our devices in an effort to steal our sensitive financial data, personal information and money. According to a recent FBI internet crime report, in 2021 alone, fraudsters acquired $347.66 million from victims through tech support fraud. 

To protect your finances and any sensitive information, it’s important to remain vigilant and practice good cyber hygiene. Doing so will help keep your digital banking experience as secure as possible.

What is a technical support scam?

A technical (“tech”) support scam occurs when fraudsters use phone calls, pop-up messages and emails to trick users into providing access to their computer and sensitive information (e.g., passwords, credit data and personal information). This allows the fraudsters to scare victims into voluntarily paying or withdrawing money, installing malware, opening accounts and potentially damaging their credit.

Telephone Scams?

Scammers try to secure a foothold in your accounts by using social engineering tactics, which may include the following scenarios:

  • Pop-ups that state there's an issue with your computer and require you to call a phone number.
  • A phone conversation with a fraudster, typically pretending to be a legitimate company helping you resolve the issue.
  • A fraudster tricking you into allowing remote access to your device, often by installing remote access software.
  • A fraudster controlling the device and tricking you into believing the issue has been fixed.
  • A fraudster then demanding payment for services rendered.

To protect your accounts and keep them secure, it's important to be aware of the sophisticated methods cybercriminals use.

What kinds of tech support scams should you watch out for?

Not all tech support scams are created equal. Fraudsters have multiple methods to scam victims. Once you know how these scams work, it's easier to understand how to avoid them.

Pop-up warnings

A pop-up may appear on your screen advising you to call a phone number to fix an “urgent issue” with your device. This is known as scareware. Scareware is typically generated by malicious extensions in your Internet browser.

In some cases, the scammers want to secure your personal information (like your account number) so they can use the data gathered to con you into providing access to your financial information. Other times, cybercriminals will initiate a full takeover of your computer through remote access tools such as Any Desk, TeamViewer, GoToAssist, LogMeIn Rescue and Zoho Assist as well as other software programs (where the attacker can remotely control your computer). This is usually launched if the user grants a cybercriminal access to their computer.

The fraudsters will then attempt to extort money from you for a one-time or subscription fee, which can be many thousands of dollars.

Telephone scams

Vishing, also known as a telephone scam, is designed to trick you into providing personal information over the phone to a fraudster pretending to be from an official entity, like a bank or government agency.

A scammer will call you and say you need to provide your details immediately to solve a technical “problem” you have. Some of these scare tactics may include threatening to suspend your bank account or saying you'll face criminal charges.

If you provide any sensitive information, it can give cybercriminals the information they need to steal your money and ruin your credit.

How can you stay safe?

Scammers use predictable tactics to convince you to surrender your financial details — but with a little know-how, you may be able to can stop them in their tracks and protect yourself from falling victim to a tech support scam.

Hang up — it’s not worth it

Be cautious when dealing with unsolicited calls. Avoid answering them in the first place, and if that isn’t possible, do NOT give out personal information over the phone. Consider blocking the scammer’s phone number.

If the call seems legitimate, be sure to ask enough questions and thoroughly verify the caller's claims, as well as the phone number they are calling from. Malicious individuals rely on putting you under pressure to make poor decisions in the heat of the moment, so don’t play into their hands.

Don’t click on unknown links

Don’t click on suspicious links or attachments. Legitimate financial institutions will NEVER send you unsolicited messages asking for personal information such as your login credentials or account information.

Avoid oversharing online

You should avoid sharing personal information on the Internet (e.g., tagging a personal photo on Facebook with your birthdate, eating your favorite food or mentioning the name of your pet: any of these might also be answers to your security questions or part of your password/credentials). Scammers purposely seek out this information so they can bypass security protocols.

Keep your devices updated with the latest security software

Keeping your computer updated is one of the best ways to ensure cybercriminals can’t break into and access your data. You should ensure that any security tools like antivirus programs are up-to-date in order to protect your computer against the latest malware threats.

While fraudsters use a variety of tools and tactics to convince you to provide them with access to your account and other personal details, it's important to stay vigilant to protect yourself.

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