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Cracking down on tech support scams

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Photo: Video by tmj4.com

Cracking down on tech support scams

By Vince Vitrano, Stephanie Graham. CREATED Sep 6, 2013 - UPDATED: Sep 6, 2013

MILWAUKEE - The 'Sisters In Christ' Facebook fan page is colorful, inspirational, and popular--with more than 170,000 followers.  The page is also apparently vulnerable to hackers, who replaced wholesome posts with adult content.

Worried about the site's reputation, Teresa Allissa Citro searched online for 'Facebook phone tech support' and found several numbers.  She called the first one that popped up. The person who answered said for $129, they'd rescue their page from the hackers.

"They also were supposedly putting on some kind of a device so that we couldn't be hacked again," Teresa recalls.

Turns out Teresa wasn't talking to Facebook.  In fact, the social networking giant doesn't even offer phone tech support.  Facebook says, "This was undoubtedly a scam."

The Feds say they've received thousands of complaints about similar tech support scams. 

Colleen Robbin is with the Federal Trade Commission.  She says, "The goal is to get consumers to pay hundreds of dollars for unnecessary computer repair services."

The FTC recently launched a major tech support scam crack down, filing complaints against several companies based mostly in India.  Robbin explains, "It was very interesting how persuasive the defendants were in trying to trick consumers."

The FTC says scammers rely on two different schemes.  They either cold-call you, claiming to be major companies like Microsoft, Norton, McAfee and Dell, or they lure you into calling fake online tech support listings, like the one Teresa fell for.

In both instances, the scammers try to convince you to give them remote access to your computer. 

A producer tried calling some of the 'Facebook tech support'  listings, and they sounded convincing.  Once in, the worker tries to sell you repair services, or scare you by telling you it's riddled with viruses and malware.

Kevin Haley with Symantec says, "But there's nothing wrong with your computer and they're not going to fix it for you."

That's exactly what Teresa learned.  The support line she called didn't help her at all.  She disputed the $129 fee and reported the phone listing to the search engine she used, ask.com 

'Ask' says, "Paid search advertising is a huge marketplace, so it is impossible to check every single ad.  However, once a problematic listing is brought to our attention we immediately remove it and black list the advertiser."

Now Teresa hopes she's 'inspiring' others not to fall for this tech support scheme.  "I never expected that I wasn't speaking to Facebook because they answered the phone call with, "This is Facebook technical support.'"

Experts say don't use online search results to find a company's tech support number.  Go to the company's website directly and look for that contact information.  Never give control of your computer to a third party that you are unsure about.  If someone calls you claiming you have a computer problem, hang up.

If you've been ripped off by a tech support scam, be sure to report it to the FTC.