Beware – A New Breed of Con Artists

Today’s scammers are on the phone, at your door and online. Here’s how to fend them off

(article by Joe Kita, AARP Bulletin, January/February 2016)

“Tech support” just might be the biggest consumer scam in the U.S. right now. According to Microsoft, in 2015 an estimated 3.3 million people — many of them seniors — were victimized by a tech-support con, at a total cost of $1.5 billion. That’s one American duped out of an average $454 nearly every 10 seconds.

Here’s how the scam typically unfolds: You get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be with Microsoft or Windows tech support, who says viruses have been detected on your computer. In order to protect your data, you are told to immediately call up a certain website and follow its instructions. A dummy screen may appear that shows viruses being detected and eliminated, but in reality malware is being installed that allows the scammer to steal your usernames and passwords, hold your data for ransom or even use the webcam to spy on you.

Your Plan – – Hang up the phone. “Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls,” says Courtney Gregoire, senior attorney at the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit. Also, don’t click any links in unsolicited emails from “Microsoft” or in pop-up ads promising to speed up your computer. “And if you haven’t downloaded Windows 10 or the latest version of OS X, do it,” says William Woodworth with Best Buy’s Geek Squad. “Each update is free and has lots of new security built in.” Ditto for any other software programs you’re running.

To read about other trending scams, see the AARP article

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