No, You Didn’t Buy That $500 Antivirus: The Erroneous Charges Trap
We’ve been seeing a lot of fraud and scammer activity lately, so we wanted to warn about some of the common tricks and traps we’ve seen. “Call Center Scammers” are unfortunately nothing new. Just about everyone, whether they’ve realized it or not, have encountered these types of swindlers in some form or another, including the erroneous charges trap.
For some years now, the most common thread we’ve seen have been tech support scams. In this type of scheme, criminals will try to trick users into handing over control of their computer by pretending to be “support staff” for Microsoft, Apple, Google, or another large-scale tech company. They will do this by either directly calling you (often spoofing a number in your area code so as to not raise suspicion) or by putting a pop-up advertisement out on the internet that will, once stumbled upon, prevent you from closing it and display threatening and official-sounding warnings about your computer, with a phone number to call to “fix” whatever issue the scammers are claiming your computer has. Once they get you on the phone, they will do their best to convince you that your computer is having some sort of issue, and that they are going to fix it for you. No matter what, the most important thing to remember with these is that most of these companies will ever contact you for any reason, let alone a computer issue, and anyone claiming to be calling from them is trying get one over on you.
Which brings us to one of the schemes we have been seeing more recently. An exception to the above rule is a company that does contact you regularly regarding bills – such as an antivirus provider, for example. One of the most common scams we’re seeing now is formatted very much the same way as the previous one, but instead of luring you in with threats of a problem needing to be fixed, they lure you in with the threat of a double-billing or a purchase you didn’t mean to make. These types of scammers will typically disguise themselves as Norton or McAfee and will send out Emails and alerts about large payments made for service that they want you to think you’ve purchased. If you contact them to dispute the charge, they will often indicate that the charge was made in error, and offer to refund you. In order to give you your money back, all they need is your banking information… and you can probably see where this is going. Other times, they won’t directly raise the red flag by asking for this information outright, instead “sending the refund” and making it look like they accidentally gave you too much money. The scammer will then plead with you to send back just the amount they overpaid in the “refund,” implying legal consequences for you, or in really low cases, pretending they’ll be fired if they cannot get the overpayment back. This is all an elaborate ruse to get you to send them money, as you’ll find no such transaction actually went through at the end. Similar scams are also known to take place pretending to be Amazon or the like, those these are often more obvious due to their commonality.
As unfortunate as it is, the best way to stay safe on the internet these days is to just assume anyone trying to contact you unsolicited is suspicious. Many cybercriminals have realized that, as secure as many computer systems have become in recent years, the easiest thing to do now is focus on tricking the person behind the screen.