In today’s digital environment, the average computer user needs to navigate a virtual minefield of devious and malicious attacks. One wrong click can end up costing your entire library of family photos or business documents. The good news is that maintaining a quality antivirus program and good internet usage habits can go a long way toward mitigating malware attacks from infecting your computer.
The bad news is that attackers are always trying to stay a step ahead.
Here at BITS we see computers with all types of infections and malware, but lately, there has been an increase in a specific type of attack that can foil even the most careful computer user:
The phone scam.
This attack commonly breaks down as follows:
- The user receives a phone call or pop-up from someone claiming to be an employee of Microsoft or a computer manufacturer.
- The scammer usually informs the victim they have detected errors on the user’s PC and requests remote access to fix the issues.
- The user grants the scammer access via remote access software.
- Once the scammer has control of the computer, they use various strategies to encourage or force the user to pay a fee. This often results in the victim’s computer being locked and made unusable without a password.
First, you can be sure you will NEVER get a legitimate, unsolicited phone call from ANY software or computer manufacturer regarding the health of your computer.
Second, the average home user should think three times about allowing an unfamiliar party remote access to their machine.
Third, Windows constantly logs system events and errors. This does NOT necessarily indicate an unhealthy computer. If someone shows you the error logs on your Windows operating system and tells you it means your system is broken, they are trying to scam you.
If you believe you have been the victim of a phone scam, the best thing to do is have a professional take a look at your system. Often scammers will leave behind malware or lock you out of your computer. Here at BITS, we’ve helped several clients with this problem.
Change any passwords that may have been exposed or that you shared with the scammer, including those for cloud-based services such as banking or email.
It is best to turn your computer off and not restart it before bringing it in (this is one case where “turning it off and back on again” will not fix the problem).
It is possible that your files will be unrecoverable. Only a recent backup will help if this is the case. We recommend everyone have a regular backup routine as this is another example of how important regular backups are.
For more info about tech support phone scams, check out The Federal Trade Commission’s article.