The Scam-demic

(File Photo)
By Michael Vogt | Computer Repair by Michael

 

There’s a pandemic going around and very few people are talking about it. It’s not a virus and wearing masks will not help. I am talking about the pandemic of computer scams. I call it the “Scam-demic”.

Scams are everywhere.  I receive calls from victims of these scams every day. The scams come in waves, but overall, it’s a steady and constant problem that isn’t going away.

Now, before you pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that you would never fall for a scam, please keep the following in mind. Intelligent people fall for scams. I hear it all the time: “I can’t believe I fell for this,” and “I can’t believe I was so stupid.” 

Smarts have nothing to do with it, folks. The scammers are experts at tricking you. They prey on kind, trusting, and honest people.  Scammers pretend to be kind and patient. But with the promise of thousands of dollars, who wouldn’t be kind and patient, right?

There is a good chance that you or someone you know has fallen victim to one of these scams, or at least come close to it. There are many types of scams designed by criminals to steal your money.  And, while there are too many different scams to list here, one of the most common types of scams that I help people with on a daily basis is the “refund” scam, also known as the “fake receipt” scam.

Many of us have received scam emails that look too good or simply too bad to be true. Because those scam emails are so obvious, we simply delete these emails and move on. But other emails appear totally legitimate and the information seems believable. 

For example, imagine receiving a receipt in an email for a purchase from Amazon. It has your first and last name, it shows the item that was purchased and the receipt even shows the Amazon logo. Everything checks out. Either way, someone made an expensive purchase from your Amazon account. Scary, right?  The good folks at “Amazon” even left their phone number at the bottom of the email in case you would like to call and get a refund for the erroneous purchase. Isn’t that nice of them? The only thing “Amazon” needs from you to get you that “refund” is  (you guessed it) your bank account number or debit card number.

Not all scams are this obvious. To make it worse, many of the scams begin with yet another well-intended phone call from the “victim”.

Imagine having a problem with your HP printer…. So, to fix the problem, you Google-search HP’s phone number and it pops up in the search results, front and center. Easy, right?  But here’s the problem: the scammers pay good money to get their fake websites to appear at the top of the search results. Even though Google does its best to remove those fake sites, sometimes it’s too little, too late.

As expected, the folks on the other end of these 800 numbers are happy to answer the phone with “HP tech support. How can I help you?”. The next thing you know, these seemingly helpful agents are asking you to click here and click there on your computer, all under the guise of helping you solve some sort of technical problem. Don’t fall for it!

Another thing I hear from my customers is this:  “I have anti-virus on my computer. How did the scammers get into my computer?”  Bad news: Because you let them in.

Keep in mind that the scammers are not trying to fool the computer. Computers are actually harder to hack than Hollywood would have you believe. Computer users, on the other hand, are easier to fool.

Think of computer scams this way: The locks on your front door are meant to keep bad guys out of your house. And most locks are very hard to pick. But what if someone knocks on your door, claiming to work for Microsoft or for Amazon?  Or maybe they claim to be a police officer or a neighbor for a lost kitten. Criminals (scammers) understand that getting someone to open the front door is much easier than picking a lock and breaking in. And that’s exactly how many of these computer scams work. Why bother trying to hack into someone’s computer if you can just trick them into opening the front door, so to speak?

All the anti-virus software in the world will not stop you from letting a stranger take remote control of your computer.  After the scammers are in (because you let them in), the scammers will hold your computer for ransom, take over your email account, or get into your bank account.

We have all seen the stories on the nightly news about a grandmother who lost thousands of dollars to a computer scam.  This makes us feel sad for the victim and we get angry at the criminals.

What can we do to protect ourselves? 

  • Never allow someone to tell you what to do with your computer unless you know that person. The friendly-sounding man on the phone may tell you to click here or click there so that he can “help” you fix a “problem”, but don’t fall for it! With just a few clicks of the mouse on your end, you could be giving the scammer complete control of your computer.
  • Talk about scams with friends and family. It can be embarrassing to admit we’ve been a victim of a computer scam, but I believe that the more we talk about it, the more others can learn from our mistakes.
  • Read the tips provided by the Larimer County Sheriff’s office on their website about how to spot and avoid all kinds of scams. (link below)
  • Get a second opinion before you click on anything and before you provide any personal information.  99.99% of the time, that bogus-looking email or that suspicious phone call you received is exactly that:  bogus.
  • Call a local computer repair shop, the Sheriff’s office, your bank, or a trusted family member! Call somebody you know BEFORE you call any phone number that is related to getting help with a computer problem. Tell the person you trust about the strange email or strange phone call.  Unfortunately, most folks call me AFTER they have already fallen for the latest, greatest scam.

If someone calls you regarding your computer, your bank or even something as simple as your electric bill, hang up the phone. Let someone you trust help you look up the phone number to make sure it is actually the number of the company you are trying to reach. Otherwise, you might find out the hard way that the nice person on the other end of the line is not who they pretend to be.

Even though we are well into the 21st century, scammer criminals treat us like we are still living in the wild, wild west! The snake oil salesmen of the past have been replaced by fake tech support companies who want to rob you of your hard-earned money. 

Remember, get a second opinion before you take any action.  Stay skeptical and stay safe!

Larimer County Sheriff’s Office Fraud page: https://www.larimer.gov/sheriff/services/information/frauds-scams#:~:text=The%20person%20identifies%20as%20Detective,your%20money%20on%20the%20phone.

 

Michael Vogt

 

Michael Vogt

Computer Repair by Michael

Since 2005

970-825-9472
ComputerRepairByMichael@gmail.com

 

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