Tech Support Scams: A Downside to Free Software

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There’s lots of free software available online that can be beneficial to you and your computer. For Example, there are free anti-virus programs out there with some of them being pretty good and the nice thing about that is it can save you money so that you don’t have to buy any of the more well-known anti-virus programs that are out there.

Other free software can include alternatives to Microsoft Office and there are free video games you can play online too. While all this sounds good, because after all who doesn’t like free, there can be a downside to free software. Free programs that are available for download can be infected with malware or viruses which could cause harm to your computer.

Then there are other cases where scammers have access to that software as well and that can lead to a whole host of problems. Unfortunately, tech support scams can use that free software to trick you and that’s exactly what these scammers want. I’m gonna be taking a look at one such instance where a particular piece of software intended to help fight against scammers, ended up being used by scammers themselves. Let’s take a closer look.

A Good Thing Turned Into a Bad Thing

There was an article that I came across that talked about a particular piece of software called Lock My PC. According to the article, which you can read about here, this particular program was created to keep computers from unauthorized access so that when it’s left unattended, it creates a lock screen that requires a password to remove.

I thought that was interesting considering you can do something fairly similar with Windows, you just have to set a time of when you want a lock screen/screen saver to appear. Still, having another layer of security is always helpful. In this case, it initially was helpful, but soon that would end up changing.

Scammers that say they are in tech support will a lot of times say they are from Microsoft or other reputable technology companies so that way they sound more legitimate. When this software became available to download for free, these particular type of scammers would download it also and then use it to unsuspecting victims. According to the same article, these tech support scammers would lock a victim’s computer and then demand payment from them in order to gain access back to their PC.

It’s hard to say exactly what form of payment these scammers want, but I know in a lot of similar scams, they usually want to be paid in Bitcoin, which is a cryptocurrency and it happens to be the most well-known one. While it does seem scary that scammers can take something that was meant for good and turn it bad, you might wonder if there is anything that can be done so that you don’t become the victim. You better believe there is something that can be done and I’ll go over those things next.

Research Is Important

It’s a great thing that there is a lot of free software available for you to download on your computer. A lot of them definitely have great benefits that can be a great alternative to their, at times, more costly counterparts. With that being said, it’s very important to research the free programs you are interested in downloading.

You’ll want to find and read as many reviews of the software you want to download to see what others are saying about it. Another thing you’ll also want to be careful of is the actually downloading of the program because some of these sites that let you download them can contain dangerous viruses and malware that can harm your computer or be a back door way for scammers and hackers to get inside your PC.

Source Code

This is where having a great anti-virus program comes in handy as it will generally warn you of potentially dangerous viruses and try to contain it before it does anything to your computer. They’ll also warn you of what could be phishing websites which are websites designed to look like a legitimate company, but are made to steal your information from the legitimate company and get access to your payment information and possibly get a hold of your identity.

Getting back to research, you’ll definitely want to use search engines to find try and find out any important information of a free program that you might want to download. Sometimes you just might come across some other interesting information about other things like I did about the Lock My PC program and how tech support scammers ended up using that software.

Even if you had downloaded and used the software, thankfully in this case, the makers of it offered a solution before taking it offline so it could no longer be downloaded and used for destructive purposes. Doing research and seeing what people are saying about any particular piece of software could save you from costly problems in the future.

Know What Scams Are Out There

Now that you know why and how to do research of free software, you’ll also want to research what the latest scams are that are going around the internet today. You’ll find lots of stories from local news stations across the US and even other countries of different kinds of scams that are going around in their area and how some people became victims of them.

If you have a gmail account, or any email account for that matter, you can set up Google alerts and what that means is, Google will let you know if there is new information or articles that have become available for any particular topic or thing that you can think of.

I’ve got a number of Google alerts set up that help keep me informed of any new information regarding the latest scams that are circulating out there as well as any other information that might be of great benefit.

If you use a smartphone, there are a number of great news apps you can download onto your phone that will give you the latest articles and headlines. One such app is called Flipboard and you can set as many preferences of things and topics that interest you and you’ll usually get up to date articles about any particular topic.

I recently came across an article from Flipboard that talked about a new Netflix phishing scam making the rounds that’s designed to steal your credit or debit card information and they use a tricky way to make it seem like it really is an authentic email and website from Netflix. I may not have known about it if I didn’t have that particular news app.

Make Sure you have the Latest Security Updates

If you’re worried about viruses, scammers, and hackers possibly gaining control of your computer in some way, there is another thing you can do in order to help and try to minimize that that risk.

In addition to having an anti-virus program, you’ll want to make sure that your operating system as well as other programs on your computer are up to date, meaning downloading the latest updates such as patches or security updates. This ensures that you won’t be susceptible to any vulnerabilities that may have existed before.

Smartphones have lots of updates, especially those using the Android operating system because a lot of times there will be security issues or things that hackers could take advantage of and so the phone provider or software/app maker will send out a security update to fix that issue so that hackers or other unwanted persons don’t have that access any longer.

Windows PCs have a lot of updates and what’s nice about that is you can set it to where it automatically updates whenever there is a new one released. Some of the updates can vary in size and depending on your internet speed, can take awhile to download and then update the PC.

Educate Others

There are lots of people who are very vulnerable to these type of scams so it’s very important to share information like this to as many people as you can, especially the elderly. The elderly are the most vulnerable because they tend to have the most amount of money and are very susceptible to believing what they scammers have to say because a lot of times they threaten them with jail time or make them believe that a member of their family is in trouble.

Educate Others

I’ve talked a lot about how much the elderly are targeted by scammers which you can read about it here. You’ll definitely want to let them know about any vulnerabilities that they may have on their computer and to be careful when it comes to downloading free software like the specific one I just talked about.

Now that you know about how some tech support scams had used the free software, Lock My PC, you can warn others about it. Have you ever been a victim of tech support scams or this one in particular from the Lock My PC software? If so, please post your comments below.