Tech support scams are nothing new. Under the guise of a legitimate company, scammers have been calling unsuspecting computer owners for years, telling them they must pay a huge fee to get rid of a non-existent virus or other issue with their system. And many people fall for it, especially the elderly.
But what happens when a tech support scam coincides with a massive data breach? That is exactly what might have happened with Dell, whose customers have been reporting a new, more sinister sort of support scam. In the past few months, many Dell customers have fallen victim to scammers. However, this time, the scam artists appear to know private details about the customers such as their name, computer model, support history, contact information, and service codes from Dell, according to Softpedia.com.
Now, victims are wondering if Dell has suffered from a major data breach or if this is an inside job, as the scammers seem to know information that only Dell would know.
Dell has yet to announce a data breach. Ars Technica, a tech news site, repeatedly tried to contact Dell for information regarding a possible data breach and each time, Dell would not answer their questions directly. The spokeswoman only told them "Protection of our customers' data is a top priority for Dell. We ask our customers keep in mind, we do not make unsolicited calls asking to charge to fix an issue they did not report or previously request help with unless they have signed up for our premium support services like Dell Tech Concierge, Dell Premium Support or Dell ProSupport services."
It does not appear that Dell will be answering the looming question any time soon: how did scammers get their hands on private customer information and use it to trick them into paying fees?
There are many posts in forums and on personal blogs about the scams. Ars Technica reader Patrick Z. suspected the phone call was a scam, so he contacted Dell via an online forum. A Dell employee wouldn’t have it, telling Patrick, "Dell is aware of this and other complaints and is investigating. No, there will not be a public post/blog. We consider this closed from a Forum perspective."
The main lesson to be learned here is to remember that no tech company (Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo, etc.) will ever call you directly. Never. We even wrote a blog about this a few months ago. If a “tech company” calls you, hang up the phone, even if they seem to know private details about you. Do not give them your credit card information or give them access to your computer.
Another lesson that can be learned is for businesses. From a marketing and public relations perspective, Dell is doing a terrible job at maintaining their image. They are not facing the problem head on and they are leaving their customers in the dust. Dell needs to get to the bottom of the scams quickly and address it publicly, or they risk losing thousands of customers. We wrote this blog awhile back on our Digital Marketing site that explains what to do in the case of a data breach or other technology issue.
Lastly, Dell needs to get a grip on their security or on their employees, wherever the problem lies. Of course, it has been found that employees are the weakest link when it comes to security. Either way, as a tech company, Dell must be a leader in strong security if they want to instill trust in their customers.