The Economics of the Tech Support Scam

We have reported a few times about the tech support scammers who use cold-calling phone lists or browser pop-ups with 800 number “support” lines to trick people into paying $300 or more for “malware removal” and other services that the computer doesn’t need.  And the pop-ups can be scary and convincing as in the example image.

Naked Security recently reported on the work of researchers from Stony Brook University on how the tech support scam works from the scammers side, where these teams are located, what sort of software tools they use, how they monetize their activities, and how much money they make.

Using tactics such as “typo-squatting” or registering thousands of close misspelling of popular domain names (i.e. or Hosting their replica web pages on content delivery networks or hijacked websites and servers.  Using system events such as stopped services or drivers to confuse the victim into believing their system is infected or compromised.  Using legitimate remote access tools such as LogMeIn Rescue and Teamviewer to take control of the victim’s PCs, and then charging ridiculous amounts to install unnecessary software to clean the system.  They are raking in millions of dollars.

As we have said before, if this happens to you do not call the provided tech support number.  Call your regular tech support provider.  If they called you, please just hang up the phone.  Never give them (or anyone else who is calling you for that matter) your credit card number, or worse yet, bank routing and account numbers.

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About the Author:

Cybersecurity analyst, pen-tester, trainer, and speaker. Serving small business owners in the St Paul, Minneapolis, and western Wisconsin area since 2001. Cybersecurity and hacking have been a passion of mine since I entered the computer and networking business in 2000. I hold several cybersecurity certifications including Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Advanced Security Pratitioner (CASP), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Other computer industry certifications include A+, Network+ and Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE). As Cybersecurity Analyst at The WyzCo Group, I help our clients experience high levels of security on their computers, networks, and websites. In addition to consulting on security products and services, we also conduct security audits, vulnerability assessments and full penetration tests. We also work with companies and organizations that need to certify compliance with regulations such as PCI-DSS (credit card processing), HIPAA/HITECH (medical records), and GLBA. We also provide Cybersecurity Awareness Training for clients and their employees. I am a frequent speakers at cybersecurity conferences such as the Minnesota Bloggers Conference, Secure360 Security Conference, the (ISC)2 World Congress, and the ISSA International Conference, and many local community organizations, Chambers of Commerce, SCORE, and several school districts. I have been blogging on cybersecurity since 2008.

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