Scammers pick the wrong target

Published 8:20 am Wednesday, May 8, 2013

EURE – There’s a fool born every day.

Victoria Mathias of the Eure community in Gates County isn’t among that group.

On May 1, Mathias said she received a phone call from a “foreign-speaking man” who said the Windows operating system on her computer had been “intercepted by Spyware.”

“I knew what he was up to…what he wanted was for me to give him remote access to my computer so he could remove the Spyware,” Mathias said. “Once that access is made, he can steal all the information stored there, which might include credit card or banking information. He was up to no good.”

And she was right.

“I’ve heard this same sales pitch over the phone before, as a matter of fact this is the third call I’ve received about Spyware on my computer and this time I was ready to ask some questions of my own,” Mathias said.

Despite having some difficulty understanding the caller due to his foreign accent, Mathias said she asked so many questions of the caller that he turned her over to his supervisor.

“They wanted to ask me did I know what Spyware was and how it could damage my computer without me knowing it,” Mathias stated. “I told them both I had virus protection on my computer, but they replied it wouldn’t work against Spyware. When I told them that’s not what my computer technician told me, they changed the subject.”

It was one key question that threw the callers a good, old-fashioned “curve ball.”

“I asked how did he know I had Windows as my operating system,” Mathias said. “He said it was through the registration of that program, which I knew was bundled with the purchase of my computer. I said okay, then tell me what brand of computer I have, since the computer and operating system should be registered together. When he couldn’t answer that question it only strengthened my belief that this was a scam. I told him this was a fraud and I was going to call my computer repair person and let them look at my computer to see if it was infected with Spyware.”

That repair business (Cooke Technology of Ahoskie) confirmed what Mathias was thinking….the phone call was a fraud.

“They (Cooke) urged me to report this to the police and to the telephone company,” Mathias said. “I did both, just to make them aware of this situation.”

She was encouraged to call the number back (the one showing on her Caller ID). Mathias said she did, but the call failed to go through.

“I got a recording that the call cannot be completed,” she said.

“I didn’t fall for their scam and I want to help someone else by letting them know not to fall for this type of scam. Don’t give out your computer ID number or any type of personal info…all they want is to steal your identity,” Mathias closed.

According to (an on-site computer repair firm), this is a breed of scamming is called “phishing calls.” It works in a way similar to telemarketing, with your phone number popping up in a call list allowing them to call and try to prompt you into using their services.  These ‘services’ are even less useful.

First they try to convince you that they are legit, perhaps walking you through the a few files on your machine to see all the errors they speak of. In which case they are showing you the Windows Event Logs, and yes there are a ton of warnings and even a few critical errors in there. It is rare to find any PC without any recorded issues, and those warnings are rarely security related.

Now that they have your attention – “Oh my gosh, they were right! There are errors on my computer!” – the caller will assure you they can fix the issues remotely and will direct you to a web site to download remote access software.

The scammers will install keyloggers that record every website, username, and password you go to (and your credit cards if you buy anything online) – and it sends that information to them silently in the background, even after they have “disconnected” from your remote session.  How? It’s pretty easy since they disabled your anti-virus software and installed a fake one in its place. They also disabled all Windows Security updates, and Adobe security updates, and JAVA security updates. And that fake anti-virus program is going to hold you hostage in a week or two saying it was a “trial” and please hand over your credit card to buy the full version.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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