In this high tech world, there seems to be a constant stream of news on technology crime and scams: millions of credit cards stolen from stores, hackers attacking government systems, security holes in brand new smart phones.
High tech scammers can hit close to home, and are as close as an email. We all should all be wary of opening things in emails from people we don’t know. But in my recent experience, scammers are also work the phones, and they can be persuasive.
Last month, a friend of mine called me about needing help with his computer. Or rather, he called me about someone who had called him to help with his computer. He had gotten a phone call out of the blue from someone who described themselves as a computer technician from “Windows,” and the technician said they had detected over the Internet that my friend’s PC was infected with a virus.
Problem was, the caller was a scammer. And my friend – who is in his 70s – was convinced it was a legitimate call. The scammer wanted to install anti-virus software for a small fee. But more likely, the software was a backdoor so the scammer could control the PC from afar and steal his personal information, like passwords, bank account logins, and anything else on the PC.
My friend told me he tried following the over the phone instructions to download and install the software on his PC, but he (luckily) couldn’t follow the scammers instructions close enough. The scammer gave up and said he would call back later. So my friend called me, asking for help, still convinced the caller was legitimate.
I explained what was happening, that it was all a scam and to hang up if the scammer called back. I knew he had security software on his PC that I had installed, so he was safe. And I could tell that the scammer hadn’t succeeded in installing anything.
This kind of scam can happen to anyone. Modern technology is complex to the point of being mysterious, and it can be intimidating to get a phone call or email from someone who can convince you they know more than you do. And, for a small price, they can fix your tech issues.
How would you respond to someone knocking on your front door, offering to help with your PC? I doubt you would let them in your door and sit them down at your PC and give them full control over your PC.
The bottom line is that no one from Microsoft or “Windows” is going to call out of the blue and offer to help with your PC. No one from Apple is going to call and say your iPhone is infected with a virus and they need to help. Any legitimate emails you get from such companies will ask you to manually go to their site and login, not click an email link to take care of the issue.
There’s no need to be paranoid about the tech world; but it is safe to be wary.