Last issue, I described high-tech scammers who randomly call people and try to talk them into allowing remote access to their PCs or Macs under the guise of helping to clean out nonexistent viruses and malware. The bottom line is to never believe anyone who calls you out of the blue and tells you that your computer is infected and they can help fix it.
But there is another popular scam that impacts many more computer users and which you may see or have already seen. This scam takes the form of a “pop-up” box or window in your web browser that warns you of something critical and tells you to immediately call a phone number for help. These scams tend to be more convincing, because the victim takes the initiative to call the number out of fear, and psychologically, that puts the victim at the disadvantage and the scammer at an advantage.
There are different variations on these scams, but the bottom line is that the help will be fake, and the persuasion they lay on you for your credit card number will be thick.
One widespread scam that continues to be around this fall and winter is for Apple computers. It’s a pop-up in the Safari web browser that states that the “FBI has locked your browser” and you must call an 800 number right away and “criminal proceedings will take place” if a fine is not paid.
The phone number is not an Apple number and is actually for a shady technical support company in Las Vegas. Scam victims who called were told that their Mac was infected with a virus and they needed to buy anti-virus from the company. But it’s all a scam, and the anti-virus they sell and install may even be malware, according to some experts.
When confronted with these pop-ups and phone numbers, the quickest thing to do is simply Google the phone number. There are many free websites out there which gather user comments on “800” and toll free numbers. You will quickly find out if the number is an official phone for Apple.
But the thing is, the number won’t be an official corporate phone number, because any high tech company worth its salt knows that these kinds of scams abound, and will take pains to not appear to be anything like such a scam. And Googling the phone number for that pop-up will show it’s a scam, according to many users.
Another thing to do is Google search the domain. Once again, if the domain is sketchy, you should soon find out from others on the web. The ongoing Apple scam purports to be from apple-security-updates.com or mac-system-alerts.com. Both are not Apple domains and are registered to owners in other countries. Apple has has some success in shutting down previous scam domains.
So don’t be apprehensive when using the web, but be very wary of a warning or pop-up that demands a phone call from you.