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Beware of fake tech support

Published March 7th, 2013 at 8:00 AM EDT , modified March 7th, 2013 at 8:00 AM EDT

Right in line with yesterday’s theme involving trust, I have been reminded of yet another trust issue. When you call tech support for a particular product, your goal is probably to talk to an official representative of the company that makes that product. If you want support for an Apple device, you’re going to call Apple’s tech support, right? Unfortunately, a couple times in the last two weeks, I have seen people fooled into calling a company that is pretending to offer official Apple support.

mytechhelpOn Google, at this moment, searching for “Apple support” results in the first item shown being an advertisement for mytechhelp.com. However, the ad (seen at right) is rather misleading, reading “Call For Apple Support” in place of what should be a company name, and with a site address starting with “apple.support”.

Going to the web site, it doesn’t look much like an Apple site, for those familiar with Apple’s real site. The site itself even includes a disclaimer, in fairly small type, at the bottom of the page, saying that they are not affiliated with Apple.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen reports from people who just called the listed phone number without visiting the site. These folks were not given the name of the company they were dealing with, and were allowed to believe they were dealing with official Apple support. In both cases I am familiar with, the callers were told that their problems were caused by viruses. In one case, the user was charged $200 and given some anti-virus software to install. In another, the user was quoted a fee that was only “55 cents per day” to “take care of the problem” and give a full year’s coverage.

In both of these cases, the problems were not related to malware. In fact, in the latter case, the affected device was an iPhone that had not been jailbroken, for which there is no malware (or anti-virus software, for that matter).

It’s important to understand, of course, that I have only second-hand experience with this company. I have not tried calling the phone number myself, so I have not actually heard for myself how they take calls and how they introduce themselves to callers. However, I can say that, at least in these cases, the way the issue was reported to have been handled was nonsensical, and seems designed just to scare callers into spending money to remove a “dangerous virus.”

More important than blacklisting a particular company is raising awareness of this issue. Not only are there companies out there who will offer tech support without any real qualifications, Mac users recently have reported being called out of the blue by “tech support” claiming to have detected problems and offering assistance. The latter is a scam, pure and simple, relying on the fact that somebody is probably having some kind of problem and can be tricked into paying for “help” with those problems.

Thus, it’s important to remind Mac users to be more thoughtful when it comes to getting technical support. If you are looking for support directly from Apple, you should only go to Apple’s official support site or to an official Apple Store (though only after making an appointment at the Genius Bar… don’t try to just walk in). If you intend to seek support from a third-party – as you might for an out-of-warranty Mac, for example – be sure to thoroughly research the companies you are considering. Do not give your trust to anyone lightly!

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6 Comments

  • chrisg says:

    Your post reminds me of this recent experience:

    Two days ago I got a phone call from someone representing Microsoft technical services (or something to that effect), urging me to go to my computer ‘now’ so they could help me eradicate all of the many, many viruses they had detected going to and from my computer. When I asked, “Wait a minute, who are you, again?”, I didn’t hear ‘Microsoft’ mentioned, just something vague regarding Windows. I assured the caller I wasn’t experiencing any particular problems with viruses, said goodbye, and quickly hung up.

    I do have a homebuilt Windows computer, that I have mainly for study. It was not on at the time, but if it had been, I think I would have found this ‘tech’ person’s opening statements more alarming than they were. I was jolted for a moment.

    I am fairly sure that if I had fallen for this ruse, an attempt at getting me to allow remote access to my computer would have followed.

    This is a great site Mr. Reed. I visit here often, and my two little Mac minis are running well with frequent software updates and Sophos installed. Thanks!

    chrisg

  • Someone says:

    This reminds me of the MacDefender scam – a website tells you your computer is loaded with viruses, tricks you into downloading “security software,” fakes symptoms of a virus, and then tricks you into giving up your credit card #. Same idea here. I guess hackers and scammers never change…

  • aalien says:

    Nice post Thomas (as always)…

    I had seen this sometimes not only related to Apple… For some persons money talks higher in this “Ad System”…

    Thanks for this information. Really nice post indeed… Most people don’t notice this little things….

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