By now, most of us are familiar with tech-support scams. A scam artist impersonates a Microsoft agent, calling to inform you that there’s a serious problem with your laptop. Usually, a call like this is a cold call, meaning the scammer doesn’t have any personal information to distinguish you from any other person they may call. In fact, they could unknowingly call you and try to persuade you that your Windows computer is seriously compromised, when in reality you only own a Mac!
However, these days, scammers are getting smarter, and our personal information is less protected than ever. Recently, ARS Technica reported that Dell computer owners have been specifically targeted by scammers who actually have real information about the computers they bought, and about the users themselves. This information included serial numbers, PC model, service tag numbers, email addresses, and phone numbers that customers had previously provided to Dell.
A Dangerous, “Credible” Scam With this information, scammers could sound much more legit over the phone, and get their victims to fall for their schemes. They would accept the bogus warning that their computers were affected by serious viruses or other issues. To further enhance their “creditability”, these hackers have reportedly spoofed Dell’s real customer service number.
What were the scammers after? In some cases, they wanted remote control over a person’s computer. They have been able to get it by persuading victims to download certain programs to their computers under the guise that those programs would “fix” their PCs. In other cases, they wanted the victim to cough up thousands of dollars in “maintenance” or “support” costs. Either way, these scam artists have made off with tons of money that is rarely, if ever, recovered.
Obviously, these scams are shining a light on a larger, much more sinister problem: some sort of security breach has happened at Dell, putting personal information of thousands of customers at risk. Worse still, the scam is actually not so new— ARS Technica actually reported it for the first time in 2016, and it has only gotten worse.
In fact, there is a slew of reports left by customers who have received such calls, on Dell’s community page. Some of the comments are extremely alarming. One such comment reads:
“Just a bump to note that this is STILL current. I’m pretty savvy about scams but even I was almost taken in by the sheer quality and amount of info the scammers use. Wonder how long Dell can keep a lid on whatever data breach it clearly has…”
Dell’s Response to the Scandal When ARS sent an email to Dell asking for comment, they received a response ensuring them that they are “taking proactive measures to shut down these scammers and make our customers aware of the scam, including direct communication, a blog with tips on how to deal with scammers, and an alert on our Support website.” The email went on to say, “it’s clear that scams of this nature are industry-wide, and we’re all taking them very seriously.”
However, as of the time this article was written, there is no evidence that consumers of other PC makers have been targeted by a similar scam in which callers have personal information about them.
Unfortunately, Dell has yet to take responsibility for or even acknowledge any security breaches or leaks of customer information. Furthermore, the alert on the support website mentioned in Dell’s email response does not say that scammers have been using personal information from consumers when they call.
Protect your personal info Remember, never give out your personal information to companies or apps that do not specifically guarantee your privacy and protection in their privacy policies. Use a call blocking app to ward off scam calls and eliminate your risk of losing money or information to scammers.
Rest assured—Call Control will never sell or use any personal information for any purpose other than to ensure best use of the app, and even then only after you have granted your express permission for the app to do so.