SCAMS ~ What to look for to avoid fraudulent schemes and how to protect yourself….
© 2016 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
We live in a technological world that offers many opportunities for scammers to thrive. The Internet, mobile phones and landlines have all enhanced the possibilities. It’s not just the communication interconnection capability, but also what services these mediums offer, not to mention the worldwide easy access all this encompasses.
At the top of the list are two well-known entities, Microsoft and the IRS. Naturally they get your immediate attention due to their importance in our lives.
The first scam is receiving a call by the alleged Microsoft Technical Department. The call or email informs you that Microsoft’s Technical Department has been monitoring your computer and has detected some sort of problem with its operation.
The caller, usually with a foreign accent and speaking in broken English from what is commonly known as a “boiler room”, alleges that Microsoft has spotted a serious problem that if left uncorrected could cause major issues. You’re advised that it’s an easy fix by simply allowing the caller to access your computer. A link or web address is given to you and you are asked to access it and then permit the caller to take control of your computer. Once you’ve done this, your computer has been hacked. Now the operation and access to your files and programs by you is limited or not accessible at all. You’re now told that to fix this problem there will be a charge and your credit card information will be required. Once you’ve given this information the problem may be resolved, however, the caller now has continuous access to everything on your computer including your credit card and banking information and probably they have already accessed it. The only solution is to immediately disconnect from the Internet and notify the various financial institutions of your dilemma. You’ll want to follow up with a reputable computer repair shop to check for hidden issues and also possibly change Internet providers since the caller now has your IP address. Change all passwords by using a different computer and Internet connection. Moral of this story is to never allow remote access by anyone you don’t trust. Microsoft and other companies do not monitor customer’s computers. If a problem exists with their software they generally notify you via an email, snail mail or in the media. A follow-up call to the company in question is advised. Look at your software documentation or call your local repair company for contact information. Microsoft offers 24/7 tech support at 877.721.7724 or 855.565.4366. A quick call will verify if this notice is legitimate. Caution is also advised when you receive requests to change passwords on your smartphone, iPad or computer as well. Never purchase any software from such callers.
(TIP: Most phone services now include caller ID. This shows the phone number from where the call originated and/or the city/state where the call is made. In some cases your own phone number may appear, which would indicate you’re calling yourself, obviously not true. Be aware that there are ways for the caller to fake or eliminate this information with what is known as “Spoofing Technology”. This technology causes the telephone network to indicate to the receiver of a call that the originator of the call is from a number other than the originating caller’s number. In other words, it could appear legitimate, but it really isn’t. If, on the other hand, it’s accurate you can compare the number with the real one. As you can see there’s no sure fire way to know it’s accurate. You can also Google the number and you’ll quickly find out what others have experienced. It’s amazing what you’ll find out.)
The second most popular scam is a notification from the IRS that you owe them money. The notification comes usually by phone, indicates that you are delinquent in taxes and that failure to make payment immediately will result in your arrest. Callers generally have your full name, address, family member’s names, employer, education and the last four digits of your social security number. This makes you think the call is legitimate. A demand for your credit card information is made. The caller becomes quite insistent and persists to threaten you by even indicating that law enforcement has been notified and is on the way to take you to jail. Another form of the IRS scam is to claim that you are due a large refund. To complete the transaction they request your social security number and banking information for a speedy direct deposit to your account. Once again, government agencies such as the IRS, do not call you for money, ask for financial information, refund you money over the phone, or by email. If they wish to contact you regarding any matter, you would receive a formal written notification in the mail with local contact information that you can easily verify. The immediate solution is to just hang up. Report all such calls to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800.366.4484. Fake calls from alleged government agencies are a federal offense and usually considered a felony. If they originate from outside the country, which they often do, prosecution is next to impossible.
(TIP: Most VOIP, Voice Over Internet Protocol, services, such as Vonage, cordless home phones and smartphone devices offer “CALL BLOCK”. If unfamiliar with how to access this feature contact the service provider, or the manufacturer of your phone for advice. Be aware that many scammers and robo callers use multiple phone numbers to call from, so you may still get calls from these people, but eventually you’ll beat them at their own game if you use the CALL BLOCK feature on every number they call from.)
Another common scam is having a message come up while your accessing a web site that says you are accessing a known hacked site and asks you to call the number on the screen for immediate assistance. The message on the screen stays locked on the screen preventing you from continuing to the site, or deleting the site, making it appear that you must call the number for help. It looks very official and even includes major credit card logos. Don’t be fooled! Don’t do it! Quit the browser if necessary.
So what preventative steps can you take? Avoid sharing personal informational data on social networking sites. Use strong passwords and update them frequently. Avoid using debit cards on the Internet and with remote payment devices. Don’t give your personal information to anyone you don’t know unless you are in direct in-person-to-person contact and/or in a reputable place of business. Following these simple rules may initially be an inconvenience, but in the long run could save you a lot of time, money and grief.
Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or followed at twitter.com/bskidmore for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, or endorse any of the products he reviews and his opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings.