As technology becomes more prevalent in everyone’s lives, so does the risk of that technology being misused. That much is common knowledge, however the amount of tech-related scams still occurring each day remains at a staggering high number.
Conor Watkins, owner of A1 Tech of Rolla, said there are times when dealing with these scams fills a 40 hour work week.
“Dealing with the aftermath of tech support scams are one of my most common jobs,” he said. “There are weeks where helping these victims recover are the vast majority of my jobs.”
Watkins said the majority of these scams afflict the elderly, but he has seen them impact members of all age groups.
According to Watkins, many of these scams originate overseas, which can make prosecuting these crimes and recovering the victim’s money difficult.
A common such scam Watkins has encountered over the course of his job involves a simply phone call. This is often referred to as “vishing,” or “voice phishing,” he said. The scam’s usual script involves the caller telling the computer owner their device has errors, and requesting personal information to fix it.
“There are also cases where they have installed malware that spies on the end user and has mined information such as their name and phone number from their computer to make the scam more convincing,” Watkins said.
Another often-seen occurrence is the pop-up ad, which nearly everyone who operates a computer will see at some point or another. Watkins confirmed that seeing one every now and then is not a matter for concern, but users should suspect malware, harmful software, if one appears each time they open their computer or internet browser.
False utility applications and fake technical support sites are also on the rise, according to Watkins, which often create ways for others to access personal information on the device.
“The typical situation is a person goes out online and searches for a driver such as for a printer or another form of support for their computer or other electronic device.  These fake sites often look very realistic and trick people into thinking they are the site they want.  These sites masquerade as companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Dell, HP, Toshiba, and many more.”
Watkins said victims can lose large sums of money in a relatively short amount of time.
“The amount of money lost in just the Phelps and Pulaski County areas cumulatively per week is likely in the tens of thousands of dollars,” he explained. This has the potential to be a major drain on the local economy.
Unfortunately, not much can be done after money is lost to a tech scam, and the best solution is to stay computer conscious and learn to avoid them all together. He cautions users that official organizations will not call on the phone, and receiving a call is a good sign it may be a scam.