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  • Apr 23, 2024

Tech Talk with Jeff - My Computer is Infected!

This month I have a story which includes multiple lessons in protecting yourself. We repeatedly hear of people falling for these scenarios because they are not paying attention, are not computer savvy, or aware of the ways scammers will try to scam them.

Someone I know was working at home when a message popped up on his computer screen. It said that his computer was infected and that he needed to call Microsoft. Obviously when this happens it's startling and feelings of dread and fear kick in. He decided to not call the number provided on his screen. Yay! Training helped here! Instead, he pulled up Google and searched for Microsoft’s phone number, gave them a call, and they worked with him on his issue. When done, he felt uncomfortable and called me for advice on what to do. He had realized that the number he called for Microsoft support was not actually Microsoft. He had, in fact, called a scammers number for support. Which they took advantage of.

This story ended okay. I advised him to shut down the computer, unplug it from the Internet, and take it to a reputable firm to have the system gone through to clean out anything the scammers had him download and to make sure it is virus free. He did this and was satisfied with the result.

This is a typical scenario with the twist that he managed to pull a bad number off Google and put himself into deeper water. So, lets pull this part a bit for what there is to learn here.

When you are working on your computer, if a message pops up (visual or audio message), don’t panic. Panic is what the scammer wants you to do. Something has been loaded into your computer’s memory that is trying to get you to take the next step that WILL cause you to be in trouble. What you want to do is ignore the messaging and just turn your computer off completely. Do not put it into sleep mode, do a complete shut down and unplug the power cord. Let it sit for a minute and boot it back up. You should be all set at this point. Most likely a site you went to put something in your temporary memory on the computer meant to scare you into action. By turning off the computer, you wipe out this memory and all is good again. If it happens again, shut down the computer and take the computer to a reputable company to be checked over.

The issue is, if you call the number provided in the messaging, that will connect you to the scammer and they will do everything they can to sound helpful, competent, and sympathetic. They will then guide you through loading real viruses or remote-control software on your computer so that they can take control of your computer. By doing so, they can go through your computer looking for passwords and other useful personal information to steal from you. Never, ever let anyone you don’t know have you load remote-control software on your computer and never let them have remote-control of your computer. No matter how reasonable they sound. Nothing good is going to come from talking to them. They provided the phone number and path for you to get scammed by them. Also keep in mind if you end up talking to these people, if they start asking you about your bank account or other financial topics, or asking you to go to the bank and take out money, you need to hang up, it is a scam. And gift cards, which they will ask for, are not a method of payment. That is always a scam.

Back to the second part of the story of Googling and finding a number for Microsoft. He was trying to be careful and do the right thing, unfortunately it did not go as planned. You cannot trust a lot of what you find on Google searches. The scammers will put fake sites out there that will pop up when you do a search. Yes, Google is a great search tool, but it can also be dangerous if you are not careful.

The best approach to take if something bad happens with your computer, is to take it to a reputable, local company and have them check to make sure your computer is clean. It is well worth the money. Besides, wouldn’t you prefer to have a local expert fixing your computer rather than someone on the phone guiding you through steps you don’t know or understand?

Be aware and be safe!

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