“Oh, I think I’ve done something horrible,” the woman’s voice spoke quickly and somewhat wavering. “I think I’ve lost control of my computer, and I don’t know what to do.”
Without stopping, she continued to describe how there was a “wicked” virus on her home computer and that Microsoft Tech Support had contacted her to say they needed to fix her computer.
When she took a breath, I asked if they were in her computer at this time.
“Why, yes! I don’t want this virus to take over my entire computer,” she says.
In spite of the major efforts to close down the tech support scam, calls continue to plague unsuspecting Snake River Region computer owners. In the end, the con artists charge hundreds of dollars to remotely access and “fix” the computers.
After calming her down, explaining the scam, I had her simply unplug the computer, call a trusted computer repair shop, and take no further calls from the phone number.
On Oct. 4, the Federal Trade Commission cracked a major international tech support scam in which telemarketers masquerade as major computer companies, con consumers into believing their computers are riddled with viruses, spyware and other malware, and then charge hundreds of dollars to remotely access and “fix” the consumers’ computers.
The FTC charged that the five operations – mostly based in India – target English-speaking consumers in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and the U.K. from telemarketing boiler rooms.
Telemarketers claimed affiliation with Dell, Microsoft, McAfee and Norton, and told intended victims malware was detected by the company and needed immediate removal. The scammers direct consumers to a utility area of their computer to show that the computer had been infected. The scammers charge from $49 to $450 to remove it. When consumers agreed to pay the fee, the scammers took remote access to the victim’s computer to “remove” non-existent malware and downloaded otherwise free programs.
A sixth company lured computer owners through Google ads that appeared when consumers searched for their computer company’s tech support telephone number.
When in operation, FTC claims, tens of thousands of people were tricked into paying removal fees that are standard warnings and errors generated by software companies, and are not viruses.