HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Computer users beware - the next time you search for online tech support, you could be choosing a scammer over a reputable company.
The scheme is called "trick to click" and you could be giving criminals remote access to your banking, passwords, and social security information.
When Lynn Wright's computer started freezing up, she looked online for help.
"Did a Google search for computer repair, and they came up. I didn't check their reviews but they sounded good, and I was in a big hurry," said Wright.
Wright paid nearly $500 for tech support and gave them remote access to her computer. She thought her problems were solved, but the computer started freezing up again weeks later. On top of that, her bank card was compromised three months in a row.
"Each time they did it, we had to change out the credit card," Wright said.
She soon found out the support she found online was a scammer.
"What they're doing is buying ads, and they have key words in there like Microsoft, Sysmatic," said private investigator and IT expert Comlan Ryan.
Ryan says criminals are buying ads within search engines to push their links to the top. When you click on them, the site looks legit. They promise guaranteed support and that they're accredited by the BBB. You believe you're dealing with a trusted name, but in reality you're not.
"Their first concern is getting a credit card. Getting your money. Usually they've very pushy right up front," Ryan said.
Next, they'll ask for remote access to your hard drive.
"What they're really doing is putting everything in place they need to do keystroke, login, get your data," Ryan said.
They'll install ad ware or malware to run in the background of your computer, which could copy and send your information directly to them. To avoid that, Ryan says to use sites like
https://support.microsoft.com or https://support.symantec.com. All the major corporations use this naming convention to get you to their support pages.
Ryan also suggests choosing a reputable support company in town.
"So you're better off getting someone locally if you're not going to use the actual software vendor. And you can talk to people locally to see what they're all about," Ryan said.
Ryan says if you think you've been affected, have your system checked out by a pro. And once you receive the all clear, be sure to change your login information, passwords, email and bank accounts.
Last year Google removed over a half a billion "trick to click ads" from their site. It's a problem they're constantly monitoring, and something you should be aware of anytime you're searching online.
"Trick To Click" links could cost you hundreds and compromise your identity too