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We had another client caught by a phone scam this week.
A woman called her, claiming to be from Microsoft and saying that the viruses on her computer were so bad that they were affecting the Microsoft network – and the client needs to clean them up immediately! Our client was a bit sceptical, and so the “Microsoft Rep” explained that if she didn’t do something about the viruses there “could be legal repercussions”.
Still feeling a bit unconvinced the “Microsoft Rep” then showed her how to check the event log file on her computer – horrifyingly it was full of row after row of red error events!
Which the rep told her were being caused by the virus. She was also shown a few other places on her computer that seemed to have errors and problems, which finally convinced her that she needed some help cleaning up her PC.
Luckily the client only had to go to a web site (which she could type into her own browser to ensure it was safe), and click a few things which would allow the helpful “Microsoft Rep” to remove the viruses for her on the spot, before they caused any more havoc to the world wide web.
It was only at this point that the caller started asking for money – explaining that for $200 per month they could give her online support to prevent the problem from happening again.
Our client wasn’t really interested in that, and started getting uncomfortable again, which is when she was hit with a blank screen requiring a password to get back into her computer.
The scammer had locked her out of her own PC – and wanted her to hand over her credit card details to get the password to unlock it.
Luckily at that point the client switched off her computer and called us. A few clever bits of software removed the password protection and then we removed all of the Trojans and other malware installed by the scammer.
After we’d cleaned everything up we sat down with a cup of coffee and asked the client about her experience – because whenever we have a client caught by one of these scams the first thing they all say to us is
“I can’t believe that I got caught by this…”
How does it feel?
Well, our client explained that the woman seemed very friendly and helpful at first, but any time she started to baulk the scammer started talking faster (and more technically), not giving her time to think. There was just the right amount of threat to make her a bit scared to hang up the phone in case she was wrong – some pseudo-proof with the event log errors, and well… she was having a bad day.
How do you protect yourself from a phone scam?
- Keep talking about the scams – we all think it can’t happen to us (or to our Mum…) but these con artists are actually pretty good at catching you when you feel a bit vulnerable. The more stories we hear about scams the more confidence we have when confronted with a scammer.
- Microsoft don’t have your phone number. Big Brother might have it, but Microsoft can’t call you directly about your computer without breaking privacy laws so never listen to someone claiming to be from Microsoft. They also don’t know if you have a virus.
- When might someone call you about a virus on your computer? Pretty much never. If you have got one of the bad viruses (the ones that start sending out spam to everyone) then your internet provider (ISP) might know about it. The only reason that they will know you have a virus is because your email address is going nuts and clogging up their server – they cant see your computer – they just see the effect your computer has on their server. Even your ISP won’t call you about the virus – they’ll just switch you off and wait for you to figure out WHY your emails aren’t working. Once you’ve cleaned up the viruses you can call them and asked to be reinstated.
- Use good Antivirus on your computer like AVG Antivirus. You should keep it up to date (so that it knows about the latest kinds of viruses), and run virus checks if you suspect a problem.
- All Computer event logs have errors – it’s expected and normal that you’ll have errors here.
- Switching her computer off was really smart. If a scammer gets access to your computer they can put all sorts of Trojans on there – things to let them find your passwords, hack into your accounts and basically do whatever they want. Disconnecting from the internet stops their access.
- Change your credit card – if you’ve given away your credit card number call the bank straight away and get the card numbers changed.
Safe computing 🙂
Jen and Dave