VennerRoad, 22nd Feb 2017
The Internet has enriched all our lives immeasurably, but make sure someone doesn’t enrich his at your expense.
computer scam cartoon
For reasons of confidentiality I won’t go into details, but recently I was consulted by a client who had a problem with his PC, at least he thought he had. When visiting a website he had received a message that told him his computer was infected with malware – phone this number urgently. He did so, twice. The second company took him for four hundred pounds which he managed to cancel thanks to our prompt consultation. The first company took him for an even larger amount which as things stand he has lost although he has put in a claim with his bank.
It is easy to say you would never fall for such a scam, but while my client is something of a technophobe he is not only highly intelligent but works in a profession where he has to deal regularly with people who are often less than honest. Anyone can be scammed, including you; reading this article will ensure you are less likely to be scammed by the two companies concerned or companies of that type.
Here is an article from 2014 which covers the basics of the scam; it also points out that the American Government has been shutting down these kinds of scams since 2011. We often complain about the government, but one legitimate function of all governments is to protect their citizens from crooks, and that is what these people are, crooks.
Some of these crooks will also cold call you, I’ve had this; unlike most people today I don’t use a mobile being if not quite housebound then restricted. I don’t usually travel further than the Library – about ten miles as the crow flies. That doesn’t mean you won’t get these sort of calls on your mobile as well as boiler room scam artists operating from outside your jurisdiction who will try to sell you shares in a worthless company.
If you are cold called you will typically find yourself speaking to a superficially charming individual, most likely a woman, who may address you by your first name. You will be told your computer has been infected with malware, but rest assured, we will remove it for you for a fee. Depending on who is running the scam and how gullible they think you are, they will ask you for passwords, access to your computer, or direct you to a site from which you are to download a certain file. If you ask the person on the other end of the phone where she is calling you from, she may give you a local address. The last such call I received gave me an address in Acton, West London – a road I actually know. She also gave me a UK phone number, an 0800 number (which means free in the UK). Sounds legitimate, doesn’t it? But I checked this against a scam warning board, and, surprise, surprise, the caller is indeed phoning from outside the UK, whatever number you are given.
If you ask these people for information, they will lie to you. It is best to simply put the phone down on them, although generally I ask the caller to hold on, set the phone down on the floor and continue with whatever I am doing for a few minutes until she gives up.
If you have any genuine doubts about your machine being infected with anything, contact a genuine company, of which there are several. The biggest include AVG, McAfee and Norton. My personal preference is AVG; you can download a free version to try out. Increasingly the big Internet companies are also keeping one step ahead of the scam artists. Microsoft has long supplied anti-malware free, and the latest version of Windows has anti-malware protection built-in. Major websites such as Google and Twitter are offering 2-step verification as added protection against the hacker, but none of this is any use if you give these crooks access to your machine or if you simply shell out your hard earned dollars for protection against imaginary cyber threats.
If you have any doubts whatsoever about that suspicious link or that message on your desktop, do a bit of research. This is now as easy as clicking a mouse; check out government websites especially and scam warning boards. If you are still in doubt, phone your ISP, the bigger ISPs carry out a lot of security work behind the scenes which they don’t talk about. A few years ago I had a call from my ISP, the guy on the other end of the phone asked me if I had recently set up a certain Yahoo! account. When I said I had not, he told me that someone had, and was using my details. He took care of it, but don’t rely on anyone else, you are your own first port of call where your security is concerned.
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