This week’s Scam Alert is a combination of multiple events consolidated into a storytelling example of how seniors are getting scammed across the community.
Grandma Peabody is sitting in her recliner watching an episode of Game of Thrones when she gets a phone call.
She answers the phone, “Hello...”
“Hello, my name is John, and I’m calling from Microsoft Technical Support. How are you today,” the man on the phone states calmly and politely.
She looks at the caller ID and it says Microsoft on it. She pauses for a moment and remembers Microsoft is on the computer she uses to surf the internet and play Tetris.
“I’m fine, thank you,” she responds.
The man, in a concerned voice, states, “I’m calling today because we ran a scan on your computer, and we noticed a virus that could be giving your information away to criminals.”
“Oh, my word,” she says worriedly that someone out there might be taking her information.
“Don’t worry; I can help you remove the virus. Go to your computer and follow my instructions: the man says in a calm and helpful voice.
Grandma Peabody takes a few seconds to grab her purple leopard print cane, lifts herself from the leather recliner and walks to the computer.
“Turn on your computer and go to this website www.__.com and click on the little icon that pops up, then you’ll see something come up that says run program. Click that, and it will allow me to access your computer to remove the virus,” the helpful technical support man instructs her.
Grandma Peabody does everything the man instructs her to do and then she notices her mouse isn’t working anymore...now her keyboard isn’t working...
“My computer isn’t letting me do anything anymore,” she says in a concerned voice.
“The virus is worse than I thought. It has taken over your computer and leaves your computer vulnerable,” the man says as she watches the screen fill with error messages.
Little does she know that the helpful man claiming to be Microsoft Technical support is actually a criminal scammer in a call center in another country. He has remotely accessed her computer and completely taken it over. Now he has the ability to add and remove whatever files he wants.
The man then tells her what he always tells his victims, “Don’t worry, I can help you erase all of this and get your computer back. We can install protection on your computer for a fee.”
After she gives the scammer her credit card information, he then seemingly gives her control of the computer back. In reality, he has helped her win an orchestrated battle with an imaginary virus and has pretended to install software that doesn’t exist. He has hacked her computer and has her information and now he can continue to call her, repeating the same lies repeatedly to collect more payments.
In 2018, people reported losing $55 million to these types of scams. This type of fraud is reported more often by people over 60 than any other scam.
• Call a reputable computer technician if you are having issues with your computer.
• What comes up on your Caller ID can be fake.
• Hang up immediately on anyone claiming to be technical support.
• Do not click on any links, messages or warnings that pop up on your computer and never call them.
• Never give passwords to anyone who contacts you.
• Tell friends or family if you are unsure or suspicious of a call or computer activity.
As always, report scams to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or contact your local law enforcement for assistance.