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Be Aware

A dose of skepticism and care will foil phone and online scammers.

Helpful pop-up messages frequently appear on computer screens, including weather notifications, news alerts or reminders to update software. Not all pop-ups, however, are benevolent. In fact, some consumers have learned tough lessons about trust in the digital age.

The Federal Trade Com-mission (FTC) describes one form of grift as “tech support scammers.” A pop-up window appears on a computer screen, complete with well-known technology company logos and a phone number for help solving a problem with a balky operating system, computer virus or similar woe.

The end goal for these scams is to have someone wire money or to provide gift cards to the scammers. And the pitches and patter from the scammers are polished — people are fooled. There are many variations, including offers to help someone recover a refund.

Fraud is certainly not limited to computers. Telephone scammers target the elderly with phone calls in which the scammer pretends to be the grandchild or another relative. The scammer may even claim to be a lawyer or police officer, increasing the urgency, according to the FTC.

The scammer paints the picture of an urgent situation, asking for money to be sent immediately through a service such as UPS, whose terms and conditions for use state that it does not agree to ship cash. As a result, UPS, which does work with law enforcement on such cases, is not liable for the loss, says Matt O’Conner, senior man-ager of public relations for the company.

Tips For Avoiding Fake Emergency Scammers

If you receive a call you suspect is a fake emergency scam, follow a few simple steps toward safety. Check out the claim by looking up the phone number of the friend or family member the scammer claims is in need. Call that person, even if the scammer requested that you do not.

Do not pay. Anyone who requests you to wire money, send a check, overnight a money order, or pay with a gift card or cash reload card is always, always, always a scammer. These payment methods are nearly untraceable.

If you sent money to a family-emergency scammer, contact the company you used to send the money and tell them it was a fraudulent transaction. Ask to have the transaction reversed, if possible.

Please report such calls or messages to FTC.gov/complaint.

Tips For Avoiding Tech Support Scammers

PHONE CALLS: If you get a phone call you didn’t expect from someone who says there’s a problem with your computer, hang up.

POP-UPS: Do not act on pop-ups appearing on your computer that request you to call a number. Real security warnings and messages will never ask you to call.

WEB-BASED ADS: If you’re looking for tech support, go to a company you know and trust. Scammers will try to trick legitimate websites into posting ads for bogus companies.

For additional tips, or if you feel you’ve been scammed, visit consumer.FTC.gov and search for tech support scam.

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