The Silicon Valley Voice

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Scam Alert – Your Computer Probably Isn’t Infected

I received a phone call from a heavily-accented caller who asked for me by name (not too unusual for a solicitor), identified my home address and claimed to be from a technical support company. I was intrigued and was told my home computer was infected by a computer virus and my Internet Service Provider (ISP) had reported the problem. The caller told me they were working with Microsoft to help fix my system.

Warning – THIS IS A SCAM

To anyone who receives a phone call similar to what I’ve described: THIS IS A SCAM. If you receive a phone call from anyone claiming your home computer is infected, just HANG UP the phone no matter what they tell you, no matter how dire the consequences. The only thing they’re after is YOUR money.

The Story Behind The Scam

I’ve heard of this happening, and have heard rumors about this, but never experienced it before. Fortunately, I know a thing or three about computers and knew immediately this is a scam, but I wanted to learn more about what they wanted and what they were claiming. Other variations have the caller claiming to be working for other legitimate companies or a local computer security firm, such as Norton, Symantec or McAfee.

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I was perplexed. “How could my computer have gotten infected? I have anti-virus software and it’s up to date?” I asked the nice person on the phone. Fortunately for me, “Dan” was willing to help me determine the source of the problem. One advantage of being a self-professed geek, is I have an old PC that I was getting ready to donate and I decided to sacrifice it for a good story. As I was booting it up, Dan proceeded to tell me some of the dire consequences I could face if my computer wasn’t cleaned.

Dan had me run the Windows Event Viewer – which logs virtually everything that happens on your computer – including errors or warnings (but the errors and warnings aren’t any sort of an indication of virus or malware activity). Dan claimed the errors I saw were an indication my computer was seriously infected and he stressed the importance of me immediately accepting their help. Accept I did and he directed me to a website that allowed him to remotely access my computer. He proceeded to show me the event viewer and claimed again the critical errors were an indication my system was infected.

We Can Help You, But….

Dan told me they could cure my system problems, however, it would cost me about $300. I asked several more questions including why the paid-for version of Malwarebytes (one of the best anti-malware programs available – also available as a free download from www.malwarebytes.org) didn’t detect the problem and Dan told me they had the best software. I declined and Dan proceeded to use the hard sell and even offered to give me a discounted price.

The Lesson

The scammers are getting more creative. Computer users have been repeatedly told time and again, not to follow unsolicited advice or click on links in emails so they’re now calling people to try to dupe them. Don’t allow yourself to fall for one of these scams. Your local ISP will never give out your name or address.

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