Support scammers locking screens

Next story


Support scammers are taking the next step: actively locking your PC until you pay to have it ‘fixed’. How can you spot the scammers and stay secure?

Using a horrible hybrid mix of ransomware and support scams, online tricksters are taking a very direct route in attempting to extort innocent PC users.

Starting as a fake Windows update and resulting in a lock screen claiming that you have an invalid Microsoft Windows product key.

You’re then prompted to call a number claiming to be Microsoft support. They of course aren’t but they’re still whiling to help you, for an extortionate price.

Defying common sense

As an industry we desperately try to emphasis caution and user education as a solid foundation to avoiding scams like this and malware in general, but it isn’t always that easy.

In the heat of the moment when your PC is locked and there’s a number to call with a very ‘helpful’ person offering help, for a price, on the other end, it can be difficult to remember any advice to the contrary.

As Mark James, ESET IT Security Specialist, puts it: “As humans we want to trust people. Malware writers and support scammers know this and use it to their advantage.

“A very high number of people still think that there’s a high chance Microsoft would call them out of the blue and fix problems they are shown exist on their computers.

“Peoples lack of good knowledge about this industry will always enable the bad guys to trick you to gain access to your computer to enable them to install malware or pay for programs they don’t need.

“We have to look at every situation with a degree of scepticism if we want to keep safe, ask ourselves questions about the likelihood of a random call from a random company.

“And remember these companies have no idea what’s wrong (if anything) with your computer especially remotely over the internet.”

What should you do?

Mark explains that the best thing you can do when called by one of these companies if “hang up the call immediately” and “if they persist in calling then contact your phone company and register your complaint.

“If you have concerns over your computer try and find a local expert recommended from friends or family or even go into a local shop and speak to someone in person.”

Last but certainly not least, the old favourites: make sure you’re using a properly updating internet security product and keep your operating system up-to-date.

Have you ever been contacted by a support scam call?

Join the ESET UK LinkedIn Group and stay up to date with the blog. If you’re interested in seeing where ESET has been featured in the news then check out our ‘In the news’ section.