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Did you receive a new gadget for Christmas? Did Santa bring you a new tablet or computer this holiday season?

Getting use to new technology can be tricky. While you are setting up your device, be sure to set strong passwords from your accounts and ensure you connect only to secure Wi-Fi. This is a great start for being safe, but your Better Business Bureau knows there is more you can do to be vigilant.

After getting your new electronics, you may start to get popups, emails or phone calls from someone claiming to be with tech support from a well-known software company. Microsoft, Comcast, Norton and Dell are all popular choices for scammers. The caller will often create a sense of urgency, saying he or she has detected a virus or your computer is about to crash and you’ll lose all your data.

You are told only a tech support employee can fix the problem, and you’re asked to allow them access to your machine. Once access is granted, the caller will often run a “scan” and claim your computer is infected with viruses. They will offer to fix the problem — for a fee.

But they have ulterior motives. If you allow remote access, malware may be installed on your machine. Malware often scans files in search of personal information, which can be used to commit identity theft.

This is a classic example of the “tech support scam,” and BBB Scam Tracker has recent reports of it hitting the Treasure Valley.

A Idaho resident recently lost $499 to this scam. According to the report, the computer became locked up with a note and loud alarm bells that claimed spyware was detected. The victim panicked and called the number that was listed and was instructed to pay a fee to get it taken care of. After being transferred to a different person claiming to be tech support, it took 90 minutes to “clean up” the computer.

Tips to avoid this scam:

  • Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you know it is the representative of a computer support team you contacted.
  • Legitimate tech support companies don’t call out of the blue. A popular way for thieves to get in touch with victims is through cold calls.
  • Look out for warning screens: Nearly half of tech support scams begin with an alert on the victim’s computer screen. This pop-up will have a phone number to call for help. Instead of calling, shut down your computer and restart it.
  • If you’ve fallen victim to this scam, don’t be embarrassed; it’s one of the most common scams that people lose money to. The first thing to do is shut down the device and take it into a reputable computer repair company. You can find one at bbb.org. Contact your bank immediately, change your passwords and file a report with BBB Scam Tracker and local law enforcement.

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