Savvy Duck Alerts: Phone Scam
|While phone-based scams aren't typically the sorts of warnings athat are described on this website, one in particular has been popping up more and more frequently in recent months, and it uses your computer as a tool to rob you of your money. Read on to learn the warning signs and what to do if you recieve one of these malicious phone calls.|
Method of Attack
These scams always start out the same way; you will get a rather benign-sounding phone call from someone claiming to be from the technical support department of Microsoft, McAfee, Symantec, or another antivirus software publisher. They start by asking you whether your computer has been running slow lately. (and whose is not?) Then they tell you that they have detected a virus on your computer and would like to repair it. This is done using software that allows them to take remote control of your computer. It is not this software that is the problem; using remote control software is a legitimate method of diagnosing and repairing a computer that I even use myself. The problem is what these thieves do with it, and there are two methods of attack.
In the first variant of this scam, the supposed support technician will fiddle with your computer for a while, tell you he has removed a virus, and conclude the phone call. They may wait weeks or months for the next step, and you may even forget that they called in the first place. What you don't know is that when they were tinkering with your computer, they installed a piece of software called a keylogger. Keyloggers make a record of everything you type and send it to others over the internet. If they're lucky, this will give them your bank passwords, stock brokerage passwords, investment account passwords, and any other information they may need to completely clean out your accounts.
The second variant of this scam is a bit more blantant and vicious. When the supposed technician gets access to your computer, they will promptly either take some of your personal information or infect your computer with viruses (or both), tell you what they have done, and ask you for money. If you ever find yourself in this situation, my advide would be not to comply and to go to the police. At this point in the scam, the damage is already done, and you giving them money won't change anything.
The best prevention is to ignore the attackers. Unfortunately, most of these attacks come from overseas, so there is little that anyone can do to catch the offenders. If you get any unexpected call from someone claiming to be from a technical support team offering you help, just hang up. This will be a scam 99.9% of the time. Think about how hard it is to get a hold of tech support when you need to call them. Why would they go out of their way to contact you?
What if I've been scammed?
If you have been the victim of this scam, and have given someone access to your computer, there are several steps that you need to take immediately. First, stop using your computer. If it has a keylogger on it, anything you type could be seen by someone else. Instead, use a friend's computer to change all of your e-mail, banking, online store, and other sensitive passwords. If you have sensitive information on your computer, you will also need to take identity theft prevention steps. I recommend Clark Howard's identity theft guide. Then you will need to do a throrough virus and malware scam on your computer to get rid of the keylogger, or to be extra safe, reinstall your entire computer from scratch. If you need assistance with this, I would be willing to help through my computer repair service. I can usually remove these infections or (if you are within the Eugene-Springfield area) reinstall your computer within an hour or two.