Not any more than you do.
Just remember this the next time your phone rings.
Some of our clients have confirmed that an old scam has returned to Bergen County, NYC, NJ, and surrounding areas with a vengeance. Companies typically based outside of the United States — very likely in India or China — are calling to tell people that Microsoft has detected a dangerous virus on their computers.
These companies claim to be acting on Microsoft’s behalf to eradicate this virus from your “infected” computers.
The trouble is, they aren’t working for Microsoft, and the person on the phone actually has no idea if your computer has a virus, malware, or anything else.
However if you give this unknown voice on the other end of the phone access to your computer, you’re going to get not only a big bill, but leave yourself open to lots of other problems.
First, the “fix” that they provide comes at a price. Typically these companies are charging at least $150 per computer (we know an attorney who was recently charged $300). But even more insidiously, they also take remote control of the computer for anywhere from one to two hours during their “clean up.”
During the time a computer is in control of a scammer, any or all these things can occur:
- Identity theft. The hard drive is searched for any information that could lead to the taking of an individual or family or business’ credit, or the emptying of bank accounts. This info can include: social security numbers, credit card information, investment information, telephone numbers and addresses, passwords, etc.
- Document theft. Any documents with financial, personal, or sensitive business information could be copied for analysis leading to eventual identity theft.
- Malware installation. Viruses and other malware are installed by the scammer to perform automated tasks. These tasks could include: identity theft, browser hijacking, setting up your computer as a part of a botnet (an automated network of infected computers that work together to attack larger computer systems), monitoring your keystrokes to get passwords and user IDs, and so on.
- Data cloaking or destruction. Malware can be programmed to be vindictive if it is not successful in its tasks. For example, data can be marked as hidden or it can be deleted.
- Computer vandalism. The computer can become unusable if it is transformed into a “zombie” on a botnet, locking the user out of all files and programs. Even if the computer is not turned into a zombie, some malware simply nukes important Windows files making it impossible for the computer to boot up.
If you have been duped by one of these callers, it is essential that you uninstall any software or files they had you download – or they installed themselves – immediately.
If you are not sure:
- what’s been installed;
- if your security has been breached;
- or don’t know how to uninstall files and software safely,
immediately call in a professional to check over your computer and make sure it’s clean.
Talk with friends and family about this scam – make sure everyone knows to say “No!” if called. The elderly can be particularly vulnerable to such calls.
When it comes to computer phone scammers “don’t talk to strangers” is good computer security policy. Be sure to develop a relationship with an IT professional who will have your best interests in mind.
And don’t be reluctant to check in with that professional if you’re at all concerned that your computer has been hacked.
Questions or concerns? Call Bergen IT at: 201-689-1823 or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org