How to Avoid Becoming A Victim
Early Wednesday afternoon, Jim called our office.
“I’ve got a message from Time Warner Cable on my computer screen telling me my computer is infected. There’s an 800 number it’s saying I should call. What should I do?” Jim curiously asked.
Later that evening, Phil called reporting the same message appeared on his wife’s laptop.
Both of these clients suspected something fishy and wisely called us before they clicked on anything or made a phone call to an unknown number.
Jim and Phil avoided becoming victims of one of three types of tech support scams that rake in over $1.3 BILLION dollars every year from unsuspecting computer users.
WEBSITE WITH A WARNING MESSAGE AND PHONE NUMBER TO CALL
As you’re surfing the Internet for recipes, news, sports scores, or automobile parts, suddenly you’re taken to a website reporting your computer is full of viruses. You’re instructed to “Call Computer Support” at a toll-free number to fix it.
Some websites or pop-ups even purport to be from your Internet Service Provider, like Time Warner Cable or Frontier Communictions.
These messages are fake. Most likely your web browser – Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome – may have been hijacked. Or you may have stumbled upon a compromised website.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
- NEVER, NEVER call the toll-free number or click a link listed on these pages.
- Immediately close your web browser. If you are unable to close it by clicking the red X in the top right corner, shut off your computer.
- Perform a full system scan with your antivirus software to make sure nothing malicious got silently installed on your computer. It may be wise to contact your trusted computer professional, like Jim called me, and have them perform a thorough virus scan on your PC.
HOW TO AVOID THIS SCAM
It’s difficult to avoid this type of scam, but you can reduce its likelihood by:
- Only visiting websites you know and trust
- Installing the AdBlockPlus extension on your web browser (adblockplus.org)
- Using a web filtering software, like our Managed Web Protection, that prevents you from going to harmful websites
PHONE CALLS OFFERING SUPPORT
Telemarketers are annoying. It’s even worse when it’s “Alex from Microsoft” calling and demanding you give him access to your computer because it’s infected.
I’ve talked to many people in our community who surprisingly follow the instructions from these people they don’t know, let them into their computers, and even give them their credit card numbers. Only to realize later that they’ve been scammed.
Let me be clear: NONE of the big name companies will EVER call you to tell you your computer is infected and that they need to fix it. NEVER. Not Microsoft, not Time Warner, not Norton.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
- Hang up the phone!
- Don’t argue with them. Don’t ask them to never call back. Simply hang up.
- Some scammers will persistently call you back just to annoy you. Either let the phone ring or keep hanging up on them. Eventually they’ll stop calling.
DECEPTIVE SEARCH RESULTS
Scammers willingly spend thousands of dollars on advertisements on popular search engines – like Google, Yahoo and Bing (MSN) – knowing some people will believe their false messages that promote to speed up your slow computer or provide support.
Victims who click on such ads get duped into paying $149.99 or some similar amount for an unknown tech support company to resolve the supposed computer problems.
It would be wise to remember: Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
- Ignore such advertisements. What you “save” will end up costing you significantly more to fix what these scammers “repair.”
- Rely only on local computer professionals where you can visit their physical store and talk to them in person.
Using common sense is the best defense in not becoming a victim to these sneaky, smart scammers.