In 2018, victims have lost more than $28,000 to tech support scammers. In the first month of 2019 thus far, at least 4 reports of tech support scam have been lodged. Victims were tricked into making payments to purchase software for fake virus infection on their computers. In some cases, victims were told to provide their credit or debit card information where they subsequently discovered unauthorised charges.

The Police have observed two variants of such scams.

a. In the first variant, victims will first see a pop-up message on their computer screens indicating that their computers have been infected with a virus or their passwords and information might have been leaked. A toll-free telephone number will be provided for the victims to contact to resolve the issue. After making the call, the victims will be connected to operators who claim to be employees from technology companies such as Microsoft or Apple. The victims will then be directed to a website and advised to download an application or enter commands to their computers. These steps gave the scammers' remote access and control of the victims' computers.

b. In the second variant, victims will receive unsolicited calls from individuals informing that their bank account details have been hacked and money was being transferred out of their accounts. The victim will similarly be directed to download an application or software to allow the caller to gain access to the victim's computer, so that he or she could help the victim.

The scammers will inform the victims that they need to purchase anti-virus software to fix their computers. Victims will then be asked to transfer money or provide personal particulars (e.g. NRIC) and credit or debit card details to facilitate the purchase. The scammers will then make unauthorised transactions using the credit or debit card details. In some cases, the victims allowed the scammers to access their email accounts by providing their passwords. This allowed the scammers to misuse their email accounts to commit other scams.

Members of the public are advised to adopt the following preventive measures:

a. Beware of unsolicited calls from persons claiming that your computer devices have been hacked or infected with viruses, even if they claim to be staff from the technology companies. Scammers may use Caller ID spoofing technology to mask the actual phone number and display a different number.

b. Ignore the pop-up messages and do not call the toll-free number provided. You may open 'Task Manager', select the web browser, and click on the End Task button to close the pop-up message.

c. Do not panic and do not follow instructions to install applications or type commands into your computer. Always obtain tech support through channels provided via the official websites (e.g. www.microsoft.com or www.apple.com). Call a trusted friend or talk to a relative before you act as you may be overwhelmed by emotion and err in your judgment.

d. Do not provide your name, identification number, passport details, contact details, bank account or credit card details.

If you wish to provide any information related to such scams, please call the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness. If you require urgent Police assistance, please dial '999'.

To seek scam-related advice, you may call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722-6688 or go to www.scamalert.sg. Join the 'let's fight scams' campaign at www.scamalert.sg/fight by signing up as an advocate to receive up-to-date messages and share them with your family and friends. Together, we can help stop scams and prevent our loved ones from becoming the next victim.

Source: Singapore Police Force