Scam Alert: Computer Support Edition

Remember how I’m always saying that sometimes it’s hard for me to know what it is that people don’t know?  This is why I’m forever grateful to friends and family for asking me questions or falling for scams, so that I have something to post about.  This time it was my mom… Sorry Mom, gotta warn the folks, don’t take it personally!

My Mom and Step-Dad recently purchased a new printer.  In an effort to try and hook it all up themselves (and not bother me with endless phone calls, for which I am grateful), my mother called Brother Technical support (Brother being the name brand of the printer she purchased).   Or at least she THOUGHT she was calling Brother Technical Support.  Who knows what she did a search for, but whatever it was, she did not find the correct phone number for Brother.

She called the number, where the person on the phone proceeded to remote control her computer, install a “malware/virus scanner” and scan her computer.  Cause, yeah, her “malware” is totally the reason she can’t figure out how to plug in her new printer.  After this “scanner” showed that she had hundreds of infections on her computer, the person then requested $160 to fix them and to support her computer for the next year!  WOW.  She obviously at this point realized it was a scam and hung up the phone.  She then called me in a panic because they had access to her computer.  She came down and picked up me and my kids and we went up to her house where I cleaned up her computer of anything that would allow these people back into her computer, removed the illegitimate malware scanner, and installed my favoritest antivirus program, ESET.

Then I scanned her computer with a real malware removal tool, Malwarebytes, which of course found that her computer had ZERO infections.

So, what do we learn from my mother?  First not everyone has a daughter like me that can come bail them out.  Also, not everyone can understand right away that these people are trying to scam you.  It can be scary seeing 100’s of infections on your computer!  You can panic, and want to fix it right away, even if it means paying these scammers $160!  I’m sure they make BANK.

1. Do NOT call random support numbers.  If you are not actually on the manufacturer’s website, do not trust the phone number you are looking at.  Do a search for the manufacturer’s website and then look at the URL when you are clicking, or check the manuals/packaging of your product for a support telephone number.

2. If you do happen to call someone for support, don’t let them remote control your computer, unless you know for sure you are talking to an actual support tech for the brand.  For example, you are on the phone or on a live chat with someone from Dell, you can let them remote control your computer.  You are on the phone with “John” from “Help My Computer Hates Me”… don’t let them remote control your computer.  Also, along these lines, figure out why they want to remote your computer.  If you need help finding the plug from the printer to the computer, they probably don’t need access to your actual computer.

3. Don’t give anyone your credit card number.  Check your warranty before you call so you know exactly what should be covered.  Don’t pay for service or parts that are covered under your warranty.  Especially don’t hand over a credit card number out of fear.  If they are using scare tactics to sell you something, hang up the phone.

So be careful out there.  Do a scan on your computer with Malwarebytes before you call anyone.  If Malwarebytes says you are clean, don’t believe anyone trying to tell you/show you otherwise.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive compensation if you make a purchase using the links.



About the author

Sarah Werle Kimmel

Sarah Werle Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 20 years of her career working as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on local NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX news affiliates, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website


Click here to post a comment

  • I have not seen that one yet, but thanks for the heads up. I have had a similar phone call from a relative with a similar situation… 🙂

    • It can happen to anyone on any computer since you are basically calling in to get support. It’s not something that’s already running on your computer.

  • This JUST happened to me. The customer support rep RUDELY told me I HAD to pay $120 to install my brother printer. I realized this was a scam after seeing them download mackeeper and knew instantly something was wrong. I disconnected from the server and hung up on them immediately. I now found the ACTUAL brother support call center and am on hold with them right now. I can not believe this was an actual scam and didn’t do more research before finding out the correct number! Thank you for all the advice, and I will do my best to make sure they do NOT have access to my computer in any way shape or form. AWFUL what these people do, and I accused them of not even being with the brother company and the man laughed at me and said that it was MY fault for having a mac computer and that he wouldn’t charge me that much to make the drivers work. Wow. Lesson learned, and thanks for the article.

  • I called 1-800 979-9350 for a problem I was having using the scanner with my Brother printer. Stupidly I did the same thing and allowed the person to take control of my computer. He then announced that I had been infected with many virus and that there were 50 other computers connected to my network. He also said that it was my actual home address that had been compromised. I was actually running my usual AVG anti-virus software at the time. He then opened-up a word pad document on my machine and requested that I enter my name, phone number and home address! He said this was required before he could pass me over to an anti-virus specialist. At that point I began to realized it was probably a scam. So I disconnected the control session and ended the telephone conversation. I then rebooted the computer and recycled the power at the printer and subsequently everything appeared to work just fine. So I’m crossing my fingers now in the hope that they have not planted a dormant virus on my machine. Obviously I bailed before I got to figure-out how much money they were about to request from me. So here is my advice: Please be extremely careful when calling any support centre! Thanks to the person that posted the initial article here…. Peace…