Even though I usually write about this topic several times a year, I am dismayed at how many people are still actually helping the cyber criminals, giving them potential access to their money, their data and their identities.
There is a new twist on an old tactic going around. That is: HP, Microsoft, your internet service provider (ISP), your supposed grandma’s neighbor or anyone else calls you to tell you that they can see you are having problems with your computer and they are there to help. They ask if they can have access to your computer so they can show the problems to you. One of the main reasons this is so successful, is that typically, everyone has problems with their computer in one way or another.
I must reiterate this point: IF THEY CALL YOU FIRST, IT IS SAFER TO ASSUME IT IS A SCAM. I have been privy to personally watch several folks who are supposedly “computer savvy” fall for this scheme right in front of my eyes. Again, IF THEY CALL YOU, IT IS SAFER TO ASSUME IT IS FRAUD. If you are uncertain, hang up and verify them by calling the entity who they say they represent. Don’t call them back using the number they give you, but rather, look up the number and call it. If they give you a name, such as “Techie Support Advisors” or “Computer Techie Professionals,” (I have ficticiously come up with these two names, so if they are legitimate companies, it is by pure coincidence I have made mention of them) or some generic variations of these, in most cases, they are trying to sell you a service contract for several hundred dollars offering support for six months or longer. I do not dispute there are legitimate companies out there offering these types of services, but you must be vigilant in your due-diligence research to be certain they are legitimate.
There are some criminals who will call you and say they work for Microsoft, HP, CenturyLink, Comcast, Rise, Time Warner, or some other company, to help you fix your infected computer. IF THEY CALL YOU FIRST, IT IS SAFER TO ASSUME IT IS A SCAM. If you sense a little frustration in my writing today, it is because too many people in our community are falling for this. Stop helping the cyber criminals and hang up immediately. Never give them access to your computer over the phone.
Now, it is a different story if you call them. Each of these companies may help you troubleshoot your computer for various reasons, but again, IF THEY CALL YOU FIRST, IT IS SAFER TO ASSUME IT IS A SCAM. I cannot be any more plain on this topic.
There is another excellent source you should all read. Go to www.fbi.gov/investigate/cyber and read what the FBI has to say about “Computer and Network Intrusions,” “Ransomware,” “Going Dark,” “Identity Theft,” “Online Predators,” and other very important topics. I recommend if you suspect an attempt to defraud you, or you are victim to an Internet crime, you may report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. This division of the FBI can be reached at www.ic3.gov. Here you can file a formal complaint.
Whether you use an Apple device or a device running Windows, you must be watchful for all suspicious activity that may be used to harm you.
For more than 15 years, Scott Lindsay has helped tens of thousands of people better their skills, publishing more than 400 articles about Apple and Microsoft software, the computer and the Internet. You can reach Scott for comments or questions at ScottLindsay@live.com.