Tech support scams increased to $347 million in 2021 in the US; this is almost a 137% increase compared to 2020. Scammers offering to help with inexistent technological solutions were reported worldwide. One of the leading and costliest scams is the Geek Squad scam.
In an ideal world, you would do your business, giving away your personal and payment details with no qualms. After all, you won’t have to worry about anything in a perfect world. However, we aren’t living in a perfect world, are we? The ugly truth is that a scam can happen, especially when personal information is involved.
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What is a Geek Squad Scam?
Geek Squad, a subsidiary of Best Buy, offers computer and consumer electronics services in-store, on-site, and online, with 24-hour telephone and on-site emergency support. Best Buy and its tech team have a solid reputation and are widely go-to places.
It is no wonder that scammers target the Geek Squad. After all, the Geek Squad is widely used across the US, so chances are high that someone will fall prey.
A Geek Squad scam is when criminals pose as Best Buy’s tech support team and reach out for devices, accounts, or applications-related matters. However, the goal is to steal your personal information, commit fraud, or gain remote access to your devices. Simply put, it is a dangerous impersonation scam to get money out of victims.
The scam is simple to execute, has low costs, and with endless variations to target different people. It's also popular since there are minimal risks and possible high rewards. People often get stumped by tricky tech problems and turn to pros like the Geek Squad for help. However, what IF the ‘trusty' helpers aren’t so trustworthy?
How a Geek Squad Scam Works
There’s no fixed version of the Geek Squad scam. Whatever it is, the ultimate goal is the same – to suck you dry via trickery and deceit. Geek Squad scammers usually reach out via emails, text messages, phone calls, or even fake websites, posing as ‘legitimate' Geek Squad workers.
Most of the Geek Squad scams come in the form of phishing emails. The emails are written convincingly with official logos to look legit with the express purpose of confusing and frightening you into action. The email contains fake invoice numbers, renewal dates, phone numbers, and links.
Once you make contact, they’ll tell you a convincing story (your device is compromised, a transaction has taken place, you owe money for a subscription, confirm your identity by providing personal details, and more). Once you are hooked, the scammer asks for your details (personal information, payment details, and more).
Some versions attempt to get you to grant remote access to them. Once they’re in, your devices are infected with malware or a tool to control your device. The imposter will not stop there; your accounts will be emptied as they continue to ‘extort’ more from you.
6 Geek Squad Scam Tactics to Recognize and Avoid
Knowledge is power, and familiarizing yourself with the worst Geek Squad scams can help you avoid them:
1. Geek Squad Auto-Renewal Scam
Perhaps, one of the most dangerous Geek Squad scams out there is the auto-renewal scam. This scam informs you that you were or will be charged to renew your Geek Squad membership. If you want to dispute or cancel your membership, you must do something within 24 hours. Either you call the provided number or click the link in the email.
The intention is to make you panic and not think twice. Once you give in, everything about you will be wide open for the scammer to exploit. In short, you allow the scammer to guide you into being scammed.
How to Avoid The Geek Squad Auto-Renewal Scam
If you’ve never signed up for Geek Squad’s services or confirmed that you have canceled the membership on time, don’t easily believe such emails. As long as you are sure you never requested for auto-renewal of your membership or never used a Geek Squad service, you can safely ignore the email. Of course, you can contact the Geek Squad directly to confirm before you do anything.
Also, look out for the Geek Squad logo, the email address, and other details like the phone number if they match the real deal. Pay attention to the text message and check for spelling and grammatical errors. Professional emails do not contain such language errors. Anything amiss is a solid reason to suspect that it’s a scam.
2. Phishing Emails/Calls/Messages on Fake Anti-malware
The con artist pretends to be a Geek Squad tech specialist and reaches out to you to inform you that your device is infected with malware. The plan is to frighten you into action so you either click a link or call them. Once you make that call, they will either pressure you into buying their ‘anti-malware’ OR gaining remote access to your device to install the ‘solution'.
Either way, you’re permitting these imposters to wreak havoc on your device. Instead of ‘resolving’ a non-existent issue, they create a real problem and have a field day with your information. Also, some install ransomware on your device and extort you for more money.
How to Avoid The Geek Squad Phishing Email Scam
Whenever someone contacts you claiming that your device is infected with some malware, don’t panic. Verify the situation first. You probably have pre-installed anti-malware running on your device. Scan your device, and confirm if your device is infected or not.
Meanwhile, perform your due diligence about their proposed anti-malware. Remember to be defensive when you receive unsolicited emails/calls/messages. Trusted brands like Best Buy and Geek Squad do not make unsolicited calls. Also, be wary and vigilant; never grant anyone access to your devices.
8 Ways to Recognize Phishing Emails (with Examples)
3. Tech Support Scam
Most of us are not tech geeks, so whenever we hit a device issue, we need help. While some of us can self-help by researching online, others rely on tech specialists to resolve the issue. Hence, when imposters contact the latter, offering discounted support services from the Geek Squad, many jump at it.
When you follow the instructions to call them to set an appointment, the scammer will require your credit card to book the appointment slot; this is where the scammer starts to siphon your money. Others will include a seemingly legit-looking link to confirm your appointment. However, you’ll be taken for a ride elsewhere at a fake website that steals your information.
How to Avoid The Geek Squad Tech Support Scam
Whenever you get unexpected calls/emails from the Geek Squad, chances are, they’re not legit, as they rarely contact you personally. Also, when you sense the person being pushy and refusing to hang up, take this as a surefire sign that something is off.
Verify the email’s sender and check for logos. Don’t forget to verify the link(s) in the email; hover your mouse over the link(s). If the link contains suspicious words or characters, don’t fall for it. Also, check the email for typos and grammatical errors. Legit emails are well-written and spot-on correct, exuding professionalism.
4. Password Reset Scam
One of the Geek Squad scams involves receiving an email informing you that your password reset was unsuccessful. Another version will request you to reset your Best Buy password for security reasons. Either way, the email will include a password reset link, prompting you into action.
Also, the email’s tone sounds urgent, ‘threatening’ you into action by a time to avoid service interruption. You worry you cannot access Best Buy, so you click the link immediately. Beware, as these links are fake, leading you to a phishing website (similar to Best Buy’s) to scam you of your login information.
The con artists will then make fraudulent purchases or steal your other important financial information. Sometimes, these links can even contain malware that infects your device once you click it.
How to Avoid The Geek Squad Scam for Password Resets
If you don’t have an account with Best Buy, or if you do and you did not attempt to reset your password recently, don’t buy these ‘your password reset was unsuccessful’ emails. Verify the included link by hovering your mouse over the link to check the domain details. If it looks suspicious, do not click it. Ignore the email and be on your merry way.
5. Browser Pop-ups Scam
While you’re browsing, you may encounter a pop-up claiming that your device has been infected with hacking software or viruses and requires immediate action. The pop-up also tells you to contact the Geek Squad at the number on the screen to get it fixed. Sometimes, instead of a number, the pop-up includes a link for you to click and download a ‘device cleaner’ to remove the malware.
Nobody likes having malware lurking in their device. Since they are familiar with the Geek Squad, they take action. When you make that call, the scammer frightens you into surrendering your personal information for further action or granting permission to remote access your device.
Or you click the included link in the pop-up and inevitably download malware, keylogger, or ransomware. A non-issue turns into a massive issue.
How to Avoid The Geek Squad Browser Pop-up Scam
Treat all browser pop-ups with caution, especially those claiming to detect malware. Such pop-ups are more than likely a scam. Hence, don’t panic. Run your anti-malware and scan your device first before anything else. As long as your anti-malware is updated, you can trust its results. Once clear, ignore such pop-ups and smile.
6. Overpayment Scam
Another common Geek Squad scam is the overpayment or accidental refund scam. The imposter sends an email claiming you paid extra for your Geek Squad subscription. You fill up a form to get a refund for the additional payment. However, the online form will not work, so you contact the number in the email.
The ‘support’ personnel requests remote access to your device to finalize the refund procedure. From here, several versions play out. They either install keyloggers or malware into your device and wreak havoc, or they ‘accidentally’ refunded you more than they should.
They’ll then require you to return the difference to their account or send gift cards.
However, in reality, the overpayment never happened. What you saw were only smoke and mirrors appearing as they did. So, if you obeyed and paid them back the difference, you’re left with much less money in your pocket.
How to Avoid The Geek Squad Scam on Overpayments
Whenever someone asks for remote access to your device, please don’t fall for it. Be extra careful when a form is involved, especially when inoperable. When an additional payment was ‘made' to your bank account, wait a few days for the ‘funds’ to clear or contact your bank to verify things first.
What to Do if You Become a Geek Squad Scam Victim
No matter how careful you are on the internet, nobody is 100% safe from scams. So, what should you do if you fall prey to a Geek Squad scam?
Collect Everything as Evidence
Before you remove all communications with the scammer, check through and gather as much evidence as you can. Save them systematically in chronological order for easier understanding. Having a backup helps. Doing so will help your case when you approach the authorities.
Freeze the Relevant Accounts
Once scammed, you’ll never know what information the scammers stole and will steal. Hence, freeze all your bank accounts, block your cards, and suspend any unauthorized activities on your account.
Also, freeze your credit with the three major credit reporting companies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Doing so will stop scammers from opening new accounts or taking out loans under your name.
Disable your Device from the Internet
Once you suspect that you have been compromised, disconnect your devices from the internet immediately. Although damage is done, you can prevent further damage and stop hackers from stealing more.
Remove Any Applications Installed by The Scammer
After disconnecting from the internet, check through your device thoroughly for anything unusual. Delete all applications by scammers to remove their access from your device.
Run Anti-malware Scans
Launch your updated antivirus to catch any lingering malware. Some malware hides deep, so run a deep scan. You want to locate and root any malware out to reduce further damage.
Change Your Passwords
You should reset all your passwords across the board. Use only strong, unique, and virtually-uncrackable passwords with at least 8-16 mixed characters. Never recycle the same password. You do not want a situation where all your other accounts become compromised when the ONE password is compromised.
Consider enabling Two-Factor Authentication to add a security layer. Also, use a secure password manager to track, manage and safeguard your passwords.
Report to The Authorities
If you fall prey to a Geek Squad scam, report it to your local law enforcement, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The authorities will investigate cases against those responsible.
Also, Geek Squad and Best Buy have dedicated helplines for their scam victims. Call them at 1-888-BEST BUY (1-888-237-8289) to report any scams.
Many Geek Squad scam victims suffer immensely from identity theft. Hence, begin your identity recovery and damage control through the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft portal.
Safeguard Yourself from Geek Squad Scams
Geek Squad scams are among the many tech support scams rampant today. Hence, pay attention and be alert at all times. Here are some helpful tips:
- Best Buy and Geek Squad do not make unsolicited calls. Don’t immediately respond to unsolicited messages or phone calls. Verify them first.
- Learn to recognize the telltale signs of a Geek Squad scam.
- Do not click anything on unsolicited emails/pop-ups.
- Do not call the included phone numbers on such unsolicited emails/pop-ups.
- Trusted brands do not ask for your personal or payment-related information via email/phone.
- Do not surrender remote access to your device.
- Do not share your personal information, including passwords.
- Enable a trusted antivirus on your device.
- Always verify with Best Buy’s legitimate contact at 1-888-BEST BUY (1-888-237-8289); use only official contact methods found directly on BestBuy.com
Wrapping Up on The Geek Squad Scam
Ignorance is not bliss. Cybercrime and fraud scams are serious issues. The repercussions can not only be financially damaging but also psychologically draining. Anyone can fall prey to these costly scams, especially without knowing the facts.
Arm yourself with the necessary knowledge and check out the worst Geek Squad scams as above so you know how to avoid them.
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