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May 18, 2014

Beware the ‘we need to fix your computer’ phone call

NORMAN — If someone called you on the phone, said they were from the “Windows technical cepartment” and claimed they needed to remotely repair your computer because it had been hacked, would you believe them?

I hope not, because it’s a scam. Someone contacts me at least once a week, stating that they have received such a call and asking if it was legitimate. One of this week’s jobs has been helping someone who fell for the scam, gave the bad guys their credit card number, got ripped off, had the bad guys lock them out of their computer and lost everything there.

The calls go something like this: the Windows technical department’s “central server” has been receiving error warnings from your computer, indicating that your computer is in danger of crashing or being hacked. The helpful tech support guy, speaking with a heavy foreign accent and a sense of great urgency, then asks you to “test” your computer by pressing certain key combinations on your keyboard.

A confusing-looking window called “Event Viewer” opens, filled with technical gobbledygook error messages, “proving” your computer has been hacked. He further explains that the “central server” gave him your phone number, so he could call and help you out of this terrible situation.

As the call progresses, you are pressured to visit a certain website and install something that will allow remote control of your computer, so that repairs can be effected. You also are asked to provide a credit card number to pay for services rendered. Victims of this scam end up losing between $50 to $500. They also risk losing everthing on the computer.

A few years ago, the Federal Trade Commission started taking scammers like this to court; unfortunately, new scams spring up every day, so it’s an ongoing crackdown that may never end.

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