Several local people are out hundreds of dollars thanks to a recent cold call scam involving non-existent computer viruses.
Recently, local computer technician, Michael Prunner of MP Computer Services reported several incidents to the local police involving clients who had received calls.
In fact, Constable Peter Robertson, Media Relations Officer for the SD&G OPP, said this will be Crime Stoppers “Crime of the Week.”
Prunner said the people calling most often say they are from Microsoft and “they tell you that you have a serious problem with your Windows. One even told the customer that their Windows had expired.”
Here is an example of a typical cold call: “Hello, I’m calling on behalf of Microsoft Support Team. Your computer is sending error messages to us, which tells us that you have viruses and some corrupted files. I can help you fix that now.”
“They sit you down in front of your computer telling you that you have bad stuff on your computer and they need to work on it. Basically, they use all free cleaners and they charge you 10 times more than it’s worth,” informed Prunner.
According to Royal Canadian Mounted Police Inspector Kerry Petryshyn, this is what is called “deceptive marketing.”
What this means is that the person calling is from a “legitimate” company of sorts, but has nefarious intentions in terms of charging you for something you could have gotten for free, charging you for something you don’t need, or charging you much more than necessary for something that may or may not be useful.
The best option for dealing with this sort of scammer is to contact the Competition Bureau of Canada. Petryshyn said, “they deal with companies that are deceiving clients.”
As with other “viruses,” the “computer scam virus” has many different strains. Petryshyn said, “there’s a few potential possibilities that can occur as there’s a variety of anti-virus scams coming out.”
According to a release from the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre (CAFC), “the virus scam has grown to epidemic proportions in Canada, now accounting for between 70 and 80 per cent of frauds reported daily to the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre.”
“This dramatic increase means the scam is working – more and more Canadians are being targeted by the virus scam.”
“Allowing a third party to download software or remotely access your computer carries a number of serious risks.”
“Malicious software can be installed to capture sensitive data such as your online banking user names and passwords, bank account information and your personal identity information.”
“Your computer can also be converted to a bot-net, which means criminals can use it without your knowledge or participation. It can then be used to spam other people, spread viruses to your friends or overload computer networks.”
“Getting your credit card information is the second important part of the virus scam. Once a criminal has that information it can be used to make purchases without your consent.”
The CAFC also warns that “not all virus scams are conducted over the phone. Many CAFC callers report being scammed after responding to internet pop-up ads for anti-virus software.”
As for Microsoft, they do not cold call customers. An employee of Microsoft Ottawa pointed out that it would be almost impossible to do so because of the immense number of users all over the world.
For those who may have already given a scammer access to their computer, Petryshyn has some advice: “If you think somebody’s had access to your computer, I wouldn’t be going back on the Internet until I’ve gotten the problem solved. It’s like opening the door again.”
He advised that anti-virus and anti-spy programs do not check for peer-to-peer applications. For this, “you may need a technician to check your system.”
Peer-to-peer applications are those that give someone else remote access to your computer and files.
Petryshyn uses a house metaphor to explain the situation more clearly: allowing someone to install peer-to-peer software, giving them remote access to your computer, is basically the same as giving “the bad guy” a key to your back door. They can come in whenever they like, invited or not.
As for credit cards, Petryshyn advises checking with your bank or credit card company right away.
For questions, or to report a scam incident, contact the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the telephone at 1-888-495-8501.