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Your phone rings and the caller tells you that problems with your computer have been detected and you need to act immediately.

What should you do?

Hang up, because it’s probably a scam and falling for it could cost you money or expose you to identity theft.

This tech-support trick begins with an unsolicited call telling you there is a serious issue with your operating system, that your computer is infected with viruses, or that it has some other glitch.

The scam could end badly with criminals getting access to your financial accounts or other sensitive personal information.

Here are some important things to know about these scams and how they could affect you:

• Reputable tech-support companies don’t make unsolicited calls like this and they don’t access or scan your computer without permission.

• Never let these callers talk you in to giving them remote access to your computer. They could install malware that steals sensitive data, like user names, passwords or account information.

• Never give out your password over the phone. Legitimate businesses won’t ask for it. You should always keep your passwords private.

• Never provide your credit card or other financial information to an unsolicited caller who claims to be from tech support. And don’t go to any website address they give you to enter any personal or banking information.

So what happens if you really do need work on your computer?

Ask a friend for a recommendation or check the web for a trusted service and contact them directly.

That puts you – not a phone scammer – in control.

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