By Kaitlyn Clark
The Haldimand Press
CAYUGA—“Virus alert from Microsoft – This computer is BLOCKED.”
Joan F. of Cayuga was faced with this message on her computer earlier this month. Her husband had just been about to log in to their online banking when a new page popped up and the computer started reading them the message. It warned them not to close out of the window or shut down the computer. The “Windows Support Alert” said that their computer had “detected some unusual activity” and requested that they call the toll-free number provided.
“This looked legit,” said Joan, who called the number and was greeted by a man who called himself Max. “We were on the phone with this guy for over an hour…. I asked him for authenticity and we bought what he said, that he was from Microsoft.”
Joan became suspicious however: “The voice for this was the same voice from the telephone scams… a foreign voice, the very same tone and everything.”
“He took control of my computer and was showing me all the stuff that was wrong with my computer and how much security I needed to buy to fix that,” continued Joan.
Joan’s suspicion was heightened when Max said she would need to pay $249 for one year of security coverage before he would unlock the computer.
“I said I was going to call him back. He gave me a number and a name to call him back, and then said, ‘don’t hang up, don’t hang up’. I hung up on him,” said Joan, who contacted their regular computer technician, Damian, for advice. He told her to turn off the computer immediately.
“The whole thing is a scam,” said Joan. “Damian said he’s been fixing everybody’s (computer) in the neighbourhood because of this (scam).… He said all you have to do is ignore it. You do not make the phone call. Shut the computer off and leave it off for awhile, and pay no attention to it because it means nothing.”
Damian arrived and began to undo everything that the scammer had done while he had control of the computer, which included removing Joan’s security system.
“I didn’t even really realize there was a computer scam; I knew there was a telephone scam…. In the anxiety of it all, you feel you have to unblock this computer,” said Joan. “We (my husband and I) felt like two cents. We just felt like we didn’t know anything. It was an awful experience.”
Joan is now urging other residents to learn from her experience and avoid this type of computer scam.
Tips to avoid computer scams
- In pop-up messages, look for obvious signs of fraud such as poor spelling and grammar, and unprofessional images.
- Know who your providers are for services, and how they will contact you. If you have an Apple computer, Microsoft (Windows) will not contact you, and vice versa.
- Big companies will not cold call you – they will only call you if you requested it. They have no way of knowing what is on your computer.
- Real security warnings on your computer will not list a phone number in their alerts.
- If you are going to call a company, search for their phone number online to make sure you have the legitimate number. You can also search for any numbers given to you to see if they are listed as a scam number.
- Do not give remote access or download programs from someone unless you trust them.
- Do not give out your credit card information to anyone contacting you about a virus or problem with your computer. Computer viruses generally cannot be fixed remotely, so this is a scam.
- Make sure you have some kind of protection on your computer that offers anti-virus software and firewalls. There are free options available. Keep this software up to date.
- Consider finding a reputable computer technician in your area who you can call if you have questions or need help.
- If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, act immediately to notify any companies that you have accounts with that could be compromised.