Don’t Be Scammed!

Over the last few months, I have been chatting with customers and colleagues about various calls, e-mails, or text messages which are scams.

Scam Alert Button
Scam Alert Button

This very popular scam has been scaring people into thinking they need to pay for unneeded services because their computer is issuing viruses. You can read more about this by reviewing the Snopes article on this scam.  http://www.snopes.com/fraud/telephone/microsoft.asp  Also if you get bored at lunch sometime, there are lots of scams you can read about. Just because it is on the Internet and listed as news, does not mean it is true!

I actually experienced a call from one of these scammers and he was very convincing. For example he said he was from AVG virus protection, but when I said that I wasn’t using that on this computer, he rattled off a few other programs. Next he said he was from Windows support and asked me what version I was using (I did not answer). Next he said he had the model number of my computer (he rattled off some number that did not match my computer). Over and over again it appeared the caller was trying to get a match of something specific to my computer.  Just because you have heard of the company does not mean the call is legitimate!

The caller indicated my computer was sending out viruses and had to be fixed immediately. I indicated my computer was still in a laptop bag from my recent flight and not turned on.  The caller indicated my computer can still send out viruses even if it is not on. I pressed the caller for a company name or website and what I got was a fake website. The company name also seemed suspicious “USA Services” which clearly is not Microsoft, not my Internet Provider and not my virus protection provider. He prompted me to turn on my computer and I faked my way through some preliminary steps with him.  Next he told me to go to a website so he could “help” me find the viruses on my computer. I asked him to instead direct me through the steps he was going to do and I would do them myself. He did not agree to that. After much frustration on his part, he finally said he would call me next week when I had more time to work with him . Immediately after I hung up, I searched the internet to learn more about this scam. The caller made what appeared to be several more attempts over the next week but never left a message and luckily I never wasted anymore time with this person.

This week I had a customer who shared with me the best response ever to one of these phone scams – “I don’t have a computer.” Amazing how fast the scammer hung up the phone :).

Over the years I have experienced several scams. I have received text messages, e-mails and phone calls from places claiming to be from my bank, from Amazon, or from some other reputable company. All of them are asking me to click a link or in some way provide personal information. When in doubt, always go to a new browser windows and enter the actual website of the real company to view your account details.

Here are some guidelines to help you determine if it is a scam

  • Ask how they got your information and ask them to be very specific with date, location, etc.
  • Ask a friend. Literally if anyone tells you it is a scam, believe them.
  • Tell them you are going to contact the company directly to deal with this matter.

Here are a couple of stories from customers about scams –

A company that is in the insurance industry sent out a test email message saying something like “look at my cute cat video” just to see who opened it. Over 50% of the employees opened it and clicked on the link. The company instituted training about avoiding e-mail scans later that month. If it is not company related, do not open it! became their new motto.

A company that is in the architecture business fell victim to a computer virus that sends out e-mail messages that appear to be from the owner of that computer. A high percentage of computers were later infected and when the company’s HR department asked employees why they opened such a suspicious e-mail, the answer was that it came from the IT Manager so it must be a real e-mail. It does not matter who sends it to you, if it sounds suspicious and you were not expecting it, do not open it!

Be cautious out there and when in doubt, delete the e-mail, delete the text message, or hang up!

I’d love to hear other stories about your experience with scams, please feel free to comment on this article.

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