Scammers are becoming increasingly clever. Every month we hear from clients who have been scammed by letting someone take control of their computer and coerce them into paying for support for non-existent computer or account-related problems. With a little bit of knowledge of how these scams work, you won’t become a victim yourself.
Scams typically start with a website pop-up, email, phone call or text message from a well-known company such as Amazon, Windows/Microsoft, Apple, or Netflix. You are notified about a large purchase that has been or will be charged to your account – or there’s a problem with your account or device/computer. You’re told to call, click a link or talk to a fraud/account representative to confirm the purchase or account information. No matter how legitimate it sounds – It’s a scam! Read on about some of the most common scams we’ve encountered recently:
- “Someone just charged an item to your Amazon account. I’m calling to confirm the purchase or refund your money.”
- “This is the FBI and we’ve detected pornographic images on your computer. You must pay a fine right away!”
- “This is your friend Bob. Can you please buy a gift card for me so I can give to my niece – I’ll pay you back.”
- “Grandma, this is your grandson – I’m in trouble and you need to bail me out. Please don’t tell mom!”
- “Your credit card number has expired. I’m calling to get your new number or your service will be cancelled right away!”
- “I’ve hacked into your email account – I can prove it because your password is xxxxxx. I’ve got embarrassing pictures of you that I captured with your webcam. If you don’t pay up, I’ll release the the pictures to all of your contacts.”
- “Your computer protection has expired. If you don’t call right away we’re charging $399 to your account to renew the protection.”
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Ignore the pop-up, email, call or SMS. If you answer an unexpected phone call, don’t answer or engage with the scammer – hang up. Most likely there is no problem at all. Unfortunately you can’t trust unknown or unsolicited callers to be who they say they are, nor can you trust the name or number on Caller ID – scammers frequently used forged numbers. Never, ever allow someone you don’t know coerce you into letting them view your computer screen or allow remote access. You wouldn’t allow someone knocking on your door to come in – the same should be true for an unsolicited phone call or message.
If in doubt, log into your account normally (not via a link in an email or telephone number provided in a recording) to check for any unrecognized activity. Or you can call the company using the phone number listed on their official website, or printed on a card you have from the company.
If you’ve already gone too far and realize that you’ve engaged in a conversation with a scammer – below are some examples of how you can quickly get out of the situation.
- “My attorney/caregiver handles all of my affairs. Contact him/her.”
- “Send me an official correspondence in the mail – you should already have my mailing address.”
Often times scammers tell you that you must act fast – so that you don’t have time to think about it, contact a trusted tech-savvy friend, family member or computer technician. Stick to your better judgement, remain in control of the conversation – or just hang up.
If you’ve already been scammed, contact us for a thorough computer security check so that we can determine when it’s safe to use your computer.