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  • Mar 15, 2022

Tech Talk with Jeff - Fake Computer Warnings

You are happily working away on your computer and suddenly, something isn’t right. It is displaying an error message and giving you instructions to call for support. A number is provided - you call it. The person you are talking to says they detected a problem with your computer, and they need to connect to it to fix it for you. You are thinking, oh my goodness, how lucky that this person is ready to help me fix whatever is going on with my computer!

Or suddenly a voice booms out of your speakers telling you to call support right away and it gives you the phone number to call. You call that number.

NO! STOP! Don’t do it! It's a scam!

The above scenarios happen. During something you did, maybe a web site you went to, a threat was put into the memory of your computer. That is step one of the scam. Step two is getting you to contact the scammer. Step three is the scammer persuading you to let them connect to your computer to “fix it”. The problem is, once they connect to your computer, they are doing everything but fixing it. They may steal information off your system. They may put new threats on it to make it look like they are finding things. They may put new threats on it to allow themselves access whenever they want access. And finally, they are definitely looking to get money out of you for “fixing” your computer. 

These are very common scams. They play on your fears. They will put pressure on you for quick decisions and play on your fear that you don’t understand your computer and need someone to take care of the issue for you.

If you get the “voice” on the computer or a messages on the screen, no matter how official they look or sound, the first step is to calm down and think. How likely is it that someone out there is really monitoring your computer for when bad things happen? It's not really done unless you have hired a specific (and probably expensive) service. Microsoft does not monitor people’s computers for “threats” that appear and then reach out to them. It just does not happen.

What should you do?

Step one, shut down the computer. Yup. Don’t answer anything and just shut down the computer. You may need to straight power it off by holding down the power button or pulling the plug. Why? Some of these attacks are sitting in the temporary memory on your computer. They only become a real threat if you do what it is asking you to do. By shutting down, you are clearing the temporary memory. If the “voice” is telling you to not shut down your computer, that is all more the reason to shut down computer. It can stop the attack cold.

Boot the computer back up after letting it sit a minute. When logged back in, run a complete full antivirus scan. I recommend doing this every day for a few days just to make sure nothing is there.  Make sure you have been shutting the computer down so that is fresh each time you do the scan. In general, you should reboot your computer on a regular basis. It cleans things out and allows updates to take place that help protect you. 

If the scan comes back clean, you are probably safe. I say probably because there is no guarantee. It really depends on the threat that hit your computer and what you may or may not have done after the threat was there. Don’t be afraid to get assistance to make sure your computer is clean of any threats. Just make sure you use a known, reputable company that you contact using verified information that is unrelated to what just happened on your computer.

Whenever someone that you don’t know contacts you about your computer or any financial related matter you need to be careful and make sure you are talking to who you think you are. Use phone numbers from known, valid web sites or off the back of your credit/debit cards. Don’t use the phone numbers they provide in an email, text or by voice. How do you know it isn’t part of a scam? Don’t assume the person calling you is who they say they are. If you do, you are just taking them at their word with no verification even though they may act like they are verifying you. It's okay to start a fresh call to a known, valid phone number to be sure you are dealing with the company you think you are dealing with.

The short answer to all of this is, there are people out there that want to scam you. They don’t care what harm they do. You need to protect yourself and that means paying attention, slowing down and thinking things through so that you don’t accidently get caught in a scam.

Be aware and be safe!

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