Tech Advisory – Tech Support Scam

Tech Support Scam (posted 2016/02/13)

A friend of our church family contacted me with an issue that had caused her laptop to become unusable. The problem was that somebody called her, claiming to be from a large software company, sounding official and knowing what they were talking about. The person tried and failed to get any payment information from her (credit card, personal identification information), but was able to have her download and install a small “help” program from that company’s website. Next, he asked her to install a smaller add-on that would allow him to test her machine over the Internet, then to restart the computer.

The installed program activated a valid feature within Windows that requires a password before Windows is allowed to start up; this is an extra level of security disabled in most of our home computers. The add-on installed the password only he knew. When the password prompt came up after restarting the computer, our friend realized she was in trouble when the “Support” guy then explained he needed payment before he’d give her that password.  She hung-up the phone, and immediately called me.

This is a prime example of what’s now referred to as “RansomWare.” The bad-guys lock us out of our own computers, and then we have to pay a ransom to get them back.

In our friend’s case, I was able to extract her data safely from the computer, then through various methods recover Windows… Although recovery without paying the ransom is possible, I wanted to explain the above so you all know what to avoid:

Don’t respond to cold-calls. If you call for support, and somebody calls you back to help, that’s fine. If, without previous arrangements, somebody calls to “help,” that should start the red-flags waving.

And, if ever in doubt, try to get a number to call them back (just for fun — it’ll likely be a fake), and tell them (politely) that you’ll be checking in with your local tech support, then hang up and don’t talk to them again.

Finally, shoot an email to so we can help.

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