Tech support scams generally follow the same pattern: Cybercriminals, masquerading as professional help, tell you there's a problem with your computer so they can gain access to steal your data or install malware.
Sometimes a pop-up appears when you're online, pointing out a problem with your computer and giving a phone number you should ring. Other times the criminals will cold-call you on your phone and claim to be from Microsoft or, less commonly, Apple.
The supposed helper then offers to fix the defect on your computer using remote software, but this software really enables them to gain full access to your system and cause damage there.
Internet security specialists say everyone with a computer needs to follow these guidelines to help spot scams.
1. Don't blindly trust pop-ups
2. Under no circumstances click on strange links
3. If your computer prompts you to call a help number, don't
4. Never allow strangers to remotely access your computer
5. Don't accept unsolicited calls from people claiming to be tech service employees from well-known companies – these companies never make such calls.
Microsoft says the caller ID may sometimes even say Microsoft Support, and that criminals have become sophisticated in passing themselves off as helpers. – dpa