In the past month thousands of seniors across Canada have been targeted with a phone scam in which the caller offers to fix their computer which the caller claims is riddled with viruses. The best thing to do to one of these callers is to hang up and not give them the time of day, much less all the personal information they’ll be asking about you and your computer.
What the Scammers Want
The person on the other end of the phone wants to dial in to your computer to gain control of it and steal your personal information, including credit cards and other vital information that they can use to commit identity theft. They are calling from call centres in Southeast Asia and the scam is working well; a report commissioned by Microsoft reveals that one in five fall for the scam. Microsoft had the report done since they are frequently named as the company that the scammers are working for.
How the Con Works
Scammers target people over a certain age or in a certain demographic who may not be tech-savvy enough to understand that the person on the other end of the line is scamming them. They’ll say they are calling from Microsoft or another vaguely recognizable tech company, and that they’ve noticed that you have a number of viruses and malware on your computer. They’ll then tell you that they need access to your computer to clean it, and they’ll ask you to log in to a service like logmeinrescue.com or a similar service that will allow them remote access to your computer.
They will then grab the files they are looking for and even demand payment at the end of the call for performing a security service. They may even use the control of your computer to use it in “botnet” security attacks, where they can use your computer to run software without your knowledge that works to penetrate cyber security defenses.
Who to Report it To
If you’ve been the victim of such a call, contact the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501. They will advise as to who the proper authorities are to contact based on your particular situation.
If You’ve Fallen Victim to This Scam
First of all, don’t feel bad. One in five of your peers have fallen prey to the same con, so there is no failing on your part. However, it is important to take the following steps immediately:
1. Unplug the affected computer from the internet immediately. This can be done by turning off your modem if you are on dial-up internet or unplugging your router if you are on broadband. Do not reconnect to the internet until you have a scan performed.
2. Have an antivirus and anti-spyware scan done on your computer, preferably by a local computer security professional. Some free programs don’t do enough to catch the tracking software that the scammers may have installed. Norton and McAfee offer excellent software packages that can detect viruses and spyware and protect you against any further incursions.
3. If you have done any shopping online with a credit card, your financial information may be at risk. Contact your credit card company to let them know you’ve been a victim of this scam and discuss your next security steps with them. You’ll also want to monitor a copy of your credit report, which you can request for free by mail or pay a fee to view online through TransUnion or Equifax.
You should also contact any tech-savvy members of your family or friends to get help. Most people with this knowledge and skill set will be more than happy to help you out and help authorities try to catch these scammers.