April is digital spring cleaning month, making your computer a great place to start any spring cleaning. Keeping your computer secure and free of unnecessary data is a great way to protect it from spyware and protect yourself from identity theft.
Tech support scams remain a common threat, with more than 1,300 such scams reported nationwide to the Better Business Bureau® (BBB®) Scam Tracker in 2021. A pop-up on your computer or an unsolicited phone call may tell you that your computer needs repairs imminently. If you allow the scammer to “fix” your computer, they may install spyware or malware that will scan your computer for personal information or monitor your web browsing behavior, making you vulnerable to data theft. ‘identify.
A St. Louis man said he lost $15,000 to a tech support scam in March 2022 after receiving an email claiming to be from popular antivirus software. When he clicked on the email, someone logged into his computer remotely. The man said the rep told him to log into his bank account and approve a $399 refund of his tech support service fee, after which the man saw that $15,000 had been deposited in his account. The representative told him to return the $15,000 in Bitcoin. The man’s bank then told him that the deposits were fraudulent.
The role of cryptocurrency in tech support scams is explored in more detail in BBB’s 2022 in-depth study of cryptocurrency fraud. Tech support fraud is also a common target of business email compromise (BEC) scams, the subject of a 2019 BBB study. Read both studies at BBB.org/scamstudies.
Tech experts recommend four ways to keep your computer safe and running optimally:
- Clean up old files: Go through all the software installed on your computer and uninstall or remove programs you no longer want or need. You should also delete files that you no longer need.
- Update your computer: Install updates to your computer’s operating systems and software as they become available. Your computer should notify you of available updates. You can also check for software updates for your accessories, such as printers and routers, by going to the support area of those devices’ websites and searching for “firmware update”.
- Back up your files: It is essential to back up important files regularly in case of theft, fire, virus or damaging power surge. This includes irreplaceable digital photos, documents, email addresses, calendar items, web bookmarks and more. You can use a local solution like a thumb drive or external hard drive, keeping it somewhere safe, or you can use a cloud solution like Google Drive.
- Secure your computer: Be sure to use virus protection or cybersecurity software to protect your computer from viruses, spyware, hackers, scams and more.
Report any scams to BBB.org/scamtracker.