Similar to the tab hijackers that were the subject of last week’s blog post, phone scams are another common scam that we deal with here at Sutinen Computers. These scams happen when a person claiming to be a technician from Microsoft, Norton, Comcast, or other well-known and reputable company, calls in out of the blue and claims that the victim’s computer has a virus on it and they need urgent access to the computer to fix it. Victims often trust the “technician” because they might actually do business with the company that the fake technician claims to be calling from.
Like in similar schemes, once the victim is directed to download a remote control application that then gives the fake technician the ability to control the victim’s computer, the technician will then pull up any number of false and/or dubious scanners and proceed to demonstrate to the victim how badly the computer is infected. They will then try to convince the victim through any number of lies or threats to pay for a virus removal. Should the customer refuse to pay, the “technician” will then try to load the computer up with viruses, take control of the webcam and take pictures of the victim, or any number of other intimidating methods.
If the victim does pay, usually through credit card or wire transfer, the “technician” will then proceed to do what he claims is a virus cleanup that, in reality, is usually just removing phantom viruses “discovered” by the scanners.
As I am sure you can tell, letting these scammers onto your computer is quite dangerous and the risk of there being something bad left behind is very high. If you have been victimized, the best thing to do is to attempt to recover your money and then perform a factory reset on your computer after backing up your data.
Recovering your money can be relatively easy, should you have paid with a credit card, or very difficult, if you paid with a wire transfer. Always contact your bank and see what can be done. Chances are, they have dealt with similar things in the past and will know pretty quickly if they can help you.
Resetting your computer, also known as a wipe and reload, can be really straightforward if you have a recovery partition or recovery media from the factory. If you do not have either, then a reinstall with standard media has to be done. This can range from simple to complex, depending on the operating system and manufacturer.
Remember, a factory reset will wipe out all data and programs. Make sure to perform a backup of all important data and save any product keys if you do not have them in physical form. Programs and data can then be reloaded onto the computer after the reload.
Phone scams are a confidence trick that can be fought by simply knowing how technology companies work. Microsoft, Norton, Comcast, et. al. will not call you about problems with your computer. Should you receive such a phone call, you can verify that it is good or bad by ending the call and calling the organization back if they have a common customer service line. Never pay for any service that you did not initiate and keep your Anti-Virus up to date. Then, you will have the confidence to be able to tell any potential scammer, “Hasta la vista, baby!”
-- Josh Sutinen
2016 Sutinen Consulting