How to outsmart common computer repair scams

In the last six months, we have had a steady flow of members come into the computer club reporting that they have been the victim of a computer scam. In this scam, they receive a phone call or they get a pop-up on the computer screen telling you that a problem has been detected, and they should call the number they display. This scam has been around for about five years and is usually run by people in India, Jamaica, or China. It is now very common in Sun City.

You should know that there is no way these people can know the status of your computer. They are lying to you. There is also no way they can see your computer and then get your phone number from there.

The most common way to initiate this scam is to call people on the phone and tell them that they have detected that their computer is slow, or it is infected with a virus, or some other common problem. They often identify themselves as Microsoft employees or authorized technicians and offer to correct your problem. They are lying to you. This is where you hang up. If you agree, they direct you to a download site and have you download and install software that allows them to have remote access to your computer where they can make changes including adding malware to your computer. Their script varies, but they often try to show you some of the viruses, malware, and other problems they have found on your computer. In truth, they have not found anything on your computer that they did not put there. These are cold calls to the most gullible people they can find.

At this point, they tell you that they can cleanup your computer for a fee, usually between $99.00 and $399.00. One of our members who paid the fee was able to contact the bank and cancel the transaction, but most are not so lucky. We have seen computers come in where the members refused to pay. The malware we found on those computers took anywhere from one hour to five hours to remove with various malware removal tools. In some cases, they turn computer devices off, which are very time consuming to find and repair. In a few cases we needed to completely reinstall the Windows operating system.

The other way to be victimized by this scam is for a pop-up to display on the screen telling you that a problem has been detected and you should call the number they show. They are lying to you. Sometimes if you click the red “x” to close the pop-up it will install a virus. To avoid this press and hold the on/off button on your computer until it shuts down.

If you should call the fake technician, the scam proceeds much as the one described above. If you would like to hear the actual dialog used in this scam, a number of people have recorded these sessions on Youtube. Some have even had fun teasing the scammer. Some of these are quite funny. Go to youtube.com, search “AMMYY,” and pick one to watch.

How do you avoid this scam? Never let anyone install any software on your computer over the phone. Never give anyone permission to remotely take over your computer. Never ever, ever pay anyone to work on your computer over the phone with a credit card or with PayPal.

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