Giving someone access to your computer is like giving out a key to your front door. A computer can have your bank account information, family photos, and other private documents and data—information that fraudsters would like to steal. That’s why tech support fraud has become a significant trend in online crime, according to the 2016 Internet Crime Report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
In tech support fraud cases, criminals convince unsuspecting victims to provide remote access to their computer by calling and posing as tech support personnel from a legitimate company. The criminal can then simply charge your credit card for a fake anti-virus product, or, in more sinister situations, they can steal your personal information or install malware. More than 10,000 incidents of tech support fraud were reported to the IC3 in 2016, with victims losing nearly $8 million. Though anyone can be a victim, older computer users are the most vulnerable targets.
“They’ll trick you into letting them into your computer,” said IC3 Unit Chief Donna Gregory. “You open the door and allow them in. You may think you’re just watching them install a program to get rid of a virus, but they are really doing a lot of damage behind the scenes.”
In addition to tech support fraud, the other major fraud categories last year were business e-mail compromise, ransomware, and extortion.
The IC3 receives complaints on a variety of Internet scams and crimes, and it has received more than 3.7 million complaints since it was created in 2000. In 2016, the IC3 received a total of 298,728 complaints with reported losses in excess of $1.3 billion. The IC3 uses the information from public complaints to refer cases to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and identify trends. The IC3’s extensive database is also available to law enforcement. Internet users should report any Internet fraud to IC3, no matter the dollar amount. Additional data helps the FBI and law enforcement gain a more accurate picture of Internet crime. <
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