Victims of past phone tech support scams are about to receive a refund from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Telemarketing tech support scams that originated back in 2014 raked in over $120m from victims across the United States. The FTC announced Monday that victims of the incident would soon be receiving an email with instructions on how to receive a refund from the incident.
Tech support scams have become a big business as more people than ever are compelled to own and operate internet ready devices but often lack a firm understanding of how they work. Some of the most notorious tech support scams occurred back in 2014 when a telemarketing operation based out of Florida conned tens of thousands of users into paying for fake support services.
The Florida based scam targeted inexperienced users, often the elderly, to convince them to download free trial software to diagnose computer problems. In all cases, the software would return false positives on a user’s system that could only be fixed if the user paid to activate the software. The con didn’t stop there, however; if a user did try to upgrade, they would be redirected to an activation hotline, which would then try to sell a customer on additional security software and tech support services often costing as much as $500.
Back in December, the FTC came to a legal agreement with company responsible for the scam and ordered them to pay $10 Million in damages. This week marks the start of the refund process from the FTC and emails have begun going out to victims of the scam. This does present problems of its own as new scammers have already started phishing campaigns to capitalize on the refunds awareness.
The FTC claims that emails are being used to contact claimants to ensure that more people get refunds but inexperienced users are once again becoming conned. The most recent scam preys directly on a user’s inexperience and desire for the refund. The scam convinces people that in order to receive the FTC refund they must first confirm their identity and provide a small activation fee to link their bank account. However, once users reveal their banking information, the scammers will take money from their accounts instead.
Users who do receive an email claiming to be from the Federal Trade Commission should be cautious. First and foremost, make sure that the email is legitimate. FTC correspondence will arrive from the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Your email will contain a claim number and a PIN that will give you access to apply for a refund. This information must be entered online at ftc.gov/TechSupport in order to start the refund process. If during any of this, something seems suspicious, you can contact the FTC directly at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).