What Is a Geek Squad Scam? How Does It Work?
Geek Squad scams are a type of imposter scam in which criminals pose as Best Buy’s tech support team and offer “help” with devices, accounts, or applications. But in reality, these scammers are trying to steal your personal information, get you to pay for fraudulent services, or gain remote access to your devices.
Here’s how these scams typically unfold:
- Scammers reach out via emails, text messages, phone calls, or on fake websites, pretending to be from the Best Buy Geek Squad.
- Once they make contact, they’ll claim your device has been compromised, that you owe money for a subscription, or that you need to “confirm” your identity by providing sensitive information — such as credit card numbers, your Social Security number (SSN), etc.
- Depending on the type of scam, they may even get you to download malware or applications that will give them remote access to your device.
- Once you’re “hooked,” they’ll continue to scam you for more money — either by emptying your accounts, finding sensitive information on your device, or demanding more payment for their services.
Someone who has enlisted the help of the Geek Squad, or bought something from Best Buy, is more likely to fall for a fake Geek Squad scam. Even worse, more than 60% of tech support scam victims are over the age of 60, meaning elderly family members could be particularly at risk [*].
The majority of Geek Squad scams start with phishing emails. Scammers create convincing emails that look like they come from the Geek Squad — and then try to get you to click on links, send money, or call them.
The 7 Latest Geek Squad Scams (and How To Identify Them)
- Geek Squad auto-renewal scam
- Phishing emails
- Geek squad tech support scams
- Misleading browser pop-ups
- Password reset scams
- Accidental refunds or overpayments
- Bogus “protection” plan offers
While you’re likely to come across Geek Squad scams in your inbox, there are other ways that these sneaky scammers target their victims.
1. Geek Squad auto-renewal scams
In this scam, fraudsters send emails or text messages that claim you’ve been signed up for the Geek Squad’s subscription service and will be billed hundreds or thousands of dollars if you don’t cancel.
The message usually includes a phone number to call in case the charge is a “mistake.” Once you get on the phone, they’ll ask for your credit card or other banking information in order to “refund you.” But in reality, they’ll use that information to steal from you or commit financial fraud.
In many cases, this scam can evolve into a “refund scam.” This occurs when fraudsters use stolen accounts or credit cards to send you extra money and ask you to “refund” the difference.
When the original account holder reports the fraud, you’ll be out the full amount plus whatever you sent to the scammer.
How to recognize this scam:
- You get an invoice or an auto-renewal notice for Geek Squad services you didn’t request.
- The message includes signs that it’s a phishing scam. For example, it doesn’t come from a “BestBuy.com” email address, has spelling and grammatical errors, and doesn’t use the proper Geek Squad logo.
- You’re asked to call a phone number other than the official Best Buy number to “resolve” the error.
In the news: The Geek Squad subscription renewal notice scam hit Niagara County in New York especially hard, with the county’s Sheriff’s Office reporting that victims lost more than $22,000 to scammers [*].
📚 Related: How To Stop Spam Texts (on Android and iPhone) →
2. Phishing emails that embed fake antivirus software
In this scam, fraudsters pose as Geek Squad technicians and tell you that your device has been infected with malware. If you respond to the email or call the number in the message, they’ll pressure you to either download “antivirus software” or give them remote access to your device.
In both cases, you’re giving hackers full access to your device and your sensitive information, photos, or videos.
The “antivirus software” you install will have malware hidden inside that allows hackers to spy on you and your computer. Giving a hacker remote access means they can do whatever they want with your device — from scanning it for passwords to extorting you with sensitive photos, videos, or documents.
How to recognize phishing attacks:
- You get an unsolicited email or phone call claiming that your device has been infected with a virus. In actuality, no one can tell you if your computer has been hacked without access to it.
- Scammers ask for remote access to your device to “solve” the problem. Always be wary if someone asks you to download software or wants access to your computer.
3. Geek squad tech support scams
Geek squad and other tech support scams are also often run via phone calls. Once you’re on the phone, scammers pressure you into sending them money for their services or get you to download malware onto your devices.
There are two ways that phone call scams work:
- Scammers call you claiming that your device is infected with malware or that you owe money for services. Be wary of anyone who calls you (unsolicited).
- Scammers create fake websites that provide fraudulent phone numbers for the Geek Squad. When you call, they route the calls to their phones and start running their scams.
How to recognize a phone call scam:
- You receive an unsolicited phone call claiming to be from the Geek Squad or another tech support group. These companies will almost never contact you directly.
- Once you’re on the phone, the scammer won’t let you get off. Scammers know that if you hang up, the scam is over. They’ll do and say anything to keep you talking.
4. Misleading browser pop-ups
In other situations, scammers will use pop-ups on sketchy websites — such as adult sites or illegitimate streaming platforms — to claim your device is infected. These popups take over your screen and could to display messages such as “Your device has been infected with viruses and requires immediate action!”
If you click on the pop-up, you’ll automatically download what looks like antivirus or “device cleaner” software. In reality, this is malware, ransomware, or adware. It may even be a keylogger, which tracks what you type in order to steal passwords and other sensitive information.
How to recognize browser pop-up scams:
- No browser plugin can scan your device for viruses. If you get a message claiming that your device has been infected, it’s a scam.
- Beware of “device cleaner” apps, as these are often laden with malware. If you’re unsure about an app or piece of software, google its name + “scam” or “safe.”
5. Fake “BestBuy.com” password reset scams
In this scam, fraudsters send fake emails supposedly from Best Buy claiming that your “password reset didn’t work.” The email will look legitimate and include a link to update your account — even if you don’t have one.
But if you click on the link, it will take you to a site that looks like the “BestBuy.com” login page, but is really a phishing site designed to steal your personal information.
If you enter your real “BestBuy.com” account name and password, scammers will use them to make fraudulent purchases, buy gift cards (that can’t be traced), or steal your financial information.
How to identify password reset scams:
- You receive a password reset email for an account you don’t have.
- When you click on the link, you’re taken to a site that isn’t secure or isn’t on the official “BestBuy.com” domain.
6. Accidental refund or overpayment scams
The “accidental refund” scam occurs when fraudsters send you stolen funds for more than you were expecting and ask you to “refund” them the extra amount.
For example, let’s say you get an auto-renewal email from the Geek Squad. When you phone the support phone number listed in the message, they’ll ask you to fill out a form to get your refund.
But the form won’t work. So the support agent will ask to remotely access your desktop to help you finalize the refund.
Then, you’ll watch as they “accidentally” send you too much money as a refund. Next, they’ll ask you to wire back the difference to their account. But the whole thing is a scam and you’ll be out the full amount of money — both the supposed refund and the “accidental” extra money.
How to identify overpayment scams:
- Scammers ask to take remote control of your computer in order to facilitate a refund.
- You’re wired a “refund” for more than the amount stated on your bill. If this happens, don’t send any money. Wait a few days for the funds to clear, or contact your bank and tell them what happened.
7. Bogus “protection” plan offers
While not as dangerous as other Geek Squad scams, the worthless protection plan can still wreak havoc. In this scheme, scammers posing as technicians contact you via phone or email to sell you protection services, such as antivirus.
But these “tools” either do nothing or are loaded with malware.
Make sure to do your research before buying any digital security solution. Aura and LifeLock are two of the most well-respected names in the industry. Find out which one is right for you →
How to identify this scam:
- The tool has no online reviews or isn’t listed on top review sites like Security.org.
- Scammers contact you to try and sell you digital security services. An unsolicited email or call is a huge red flag that you’re dealing with a scammer.
Were You The Victim of a Geek Squad Scam? Do This Now
If you think you’ve been the victim of a Geek Squad scam, act fast! The sooner you shut down the scammer and report the fraud, the less damage fraudsters can inflict upon you.
Here are the steps you should take immediately:
- Freeze your credit with the three major credit reporting companies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). This stops scammers from using your personal information to open new accounts or take out loans in your name.
- Disconnect your device from the internet. This stops hackers from stealing more of your information.
- Delete any programs or applications installed by the scammer. This removes most of their access from your device.
- Run antivirus software to isolate lingering malware. Viruses can hide deep within your system. Use powerful antivirus software to root them out.
- Change all of your passwords, and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on your accounts. You might also want to consider a password manager — these tools will keep track of your passwords for you and also let you know if your accounts have been compromised.
- Report the fraud to your bank and credit card issuers. Let them know you’ve been the victim of identity theft so they’ll be on the lookout for fraudulent purchases.
- File an official report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Go to IdentityTheft.gov and file a report. This will help you dispute fraudulent transactions and clear your name in the case of identity theft.
- Consider signing up for identity theft protection. Aura keeps you safe with powerful antivirus protection as well as credit monitoring, identity theft protection, and $1,000,000 in insurance coverage for eligible losses due to identity theft.
📚 Related: Is Identity Theft Protection Really Worth It? →
Protect Yourself From Geek Squad Scams
Geek Squad scams are just one type of the many tech support scams running rampant today. And with nearly 24,000 victims of tech support scams in 2021 alone, you could be at risk.
Keep yourself and your family members safe by always following these best practices:
- Don’t respond to unsolicited messages or phone calls. Unless you initiated contact or reached out for support, you should be skeptical of any unsolicited outreach.
- Install antivirus software on your computer. Antivirus software can flag malicious attachments and websites and help prevent your device from being infected.
- Never click on links in suspicious emails. Check the URL path by hovering over the link. If it doesn’t take you to a “BestBuy.com” domain, it’s a scam.
- Don’t supply passwords, 2FA codes, or other sensitive information. Technical support agents will never ask for this information.
- Learn to recognize the signs of a phishing email. Almost all email scams include some of the telltale signs of a phishing scam.
- Always double-check phone numbers. Make sure you’re only using the numbers listed on the official “BestBuy.com” website (or whatever legitimate company you’re trying to reach).
- Consider signing up for credit monitoring. Aura can scan your bank accounts and other financial accounts for signs of fraud (such as an overpayment or “accidental refund” scams).