Trope Workshop:Tech Support Scammer

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Tech support scams are a type of telephone fraud where a scammer claims to offer legitimate technical support services, often through cold calls or fake error messages delivered through rogue ads or compromised websites. While this has mostly targeted Microsoft Windows users, those using other OSes such as macOS and Android have been targeted as well.

Along with attempting to gain remote access to a victim's computer, social engineering and confidence tricks are also used to make the user believe that there is a legitimate issue going on with the victim's device even though the computer in question is in fact clean; utilities such as Event Viewer, syskey and Command Prompt are abused by the scammers to give the unwitting victim – often an elderly and/or tech-illiterate user – the impression that the computer is infected, thus convincing said user to pay an extortionate fee for the supposed "support" services. The scammer will often then steal the victim's credit card account information or persuade the victim to log into their online banking account to receive a promised refund, only to steal more money, claiming that a secure server is connected and that the scammer cannot see the details. Many schemes involve convincing the victim to purchase expensive gift cards and then to divulge the card information to the scammer.

A related modus operandi involves scammers posing as "IRS agents" or those from equivalent agencies in the United Kingdom and Canada coaxing victims into paying up money, or in some instances gift cards or BitCoin (as they are easily laundered by way of being untraceable) for a non-existent tax violation; in reality, the IRS will not call or email you for any outstanding tax violation and most contacts are delivered through the United States Postal Service. The only time the IRS will call a person is when when a taxpayer "has an overdue tax bill, to secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or to tour a business as part of an audit or during criminal investigations."

See also: 419 Scam and Operator From India, which this heavily overlaps with more modern instances of.

Examples of Tech Support Scammer include:

Live-Action TV

  • A number of news magazine shows have covered the scams, its effects on users, and actions taken by law enforcement, major technology firms and third-party vigilantes against said scams, such as those from CBS News and most recently[when?] a Panorama episode on the scams.

Oral Tradition, Folklore, Myths and Legends

Web Video

  • YouTuber Jim Browning gained notoriety on the internet for his exploits where he takes on tech support scammers by hacking their networks, gathering evidence and details of their illicit transactions and the victims they fleeced, and intervening when the need arises.
  • Kitboga is an American scambaiter who regularly streams videos on Twitch and uploads highlights on YouTube. He began baiting in mid-2017 after he found out that his grandmother was a victim of many types of scams designed to prey on the elderly, both online and in-person. To misdirect scammers away from his real identity, as well as for viewer entertainment, Kitboga often acts as a number of characters during his videos, including an 80-year-old grandmother named Edna, a valley girl named Nevaeh, or sometimes even a competing technical support scammer named Daniel.

Other Media

Real Life

  • India has become notorious as a source of many South Asian tech support scammers, forcing technology companies whose software was used to carry out such scams to either restrict or discontinue said programs.
    • TeamViewer has since restricted India-based ISPs from using their services (which also obviously affected legitimate users from the country), along with UK-based ISP TalkTalk blocking many remote access tools to protect its customers from remote service scams.
    • FSPRO Labs, whose Lock My PC utility was abused as a form of ransomware by scammers to coax uncooperative customers into paying to regain access, ceased offering Lock My PC as a free download due to rampant abuse, though the business edition is still available on special request. FSPRO Labs has also offered recovery keys to tech support scam victims whose devices were illicitly locked using their software.
    • This glut of scams has also created a stigma towards Indian customer support agents in general, as even legitimate agents working for major tech companies are being discriminated against by leery customers who have understandably been scornful of their less-than-legitimate counterparts.
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