I have a fair grasp of how to use a computer, how to order things on the internet, and have been taught well to watch out for scammers! Well two years ago I made a bad decision and want to share it to help others not make the same mistake. One form of scamming is phishing. I have to admit I was caught, “Hook Line and (almost) Sinker!”
I ordered a second, up-to-date electronic reading device and received it soon after. I noticed when I turned the volume all the way up, that it was only equal to less than the medium volume on my old device. So after looking up the company I clicked on access to the company’s customer service number. A new page popped up with the customer service number on it. I dutifully called the number.
A man with an accent answered the phone with “Company name, USA.com.” I figured since Big Company had branches in other countries, each office would identify itself, thusly. So I proceeded to tell him my story. He politely asked permission to access my computer to see what the problem was. I told him that the problem is not my computer but my reading device.
His reply was that the server may be “contaminated” and he would need to check it. I replied that my other reader was fine and was on the same WiFi. He answered that they may be on different servers. Well, not knowing about servers, how could I argue?
A wisp of suspicion arose in my mind though. But this was Big Company’s phone number, or so I thought!! They are honest and reliable. I tried to dissuade him, “I have excellent anti-virus protection from a very reputable company.” Of course he told me, “But nothing can protect you from everything.”
So I agreed and gave him access to my desktop computer. He told me he would show me as he checked different things so I could follow along. (How thoughtful and reassuring!) In a few minutes he was on my computer and had the promised messages appearing on my screen.
Finally he told me the server was indeed “contaminated with malware.” But the degree of contamination was so bad that he could not help me because the problem was beyond his ability to fix. He recommended another company with “Level 6” agents at a computer company’s name, (which I happened to have heard of) who could help me. There would be a fee of over $150. If I wanted continued protection, I could pay $200 annually.
Well, I decided right then that I would check with my IT son first and would call them back. So they gave me their phone number. My son told me to disconnect the tower from my WiFi and turn off the computer until it could be checked. He added that it would need to be cleaned or possibly “wiped” in case there was a virus or some malware downloaded by this scammer.
I took my computer to the big store where I bought it. Thankfully I had a warranty of sorts that gave me a free fix. The agent told me there was indeed a download from the scammer, that would have allowed them access to my computer later. Thankfully my computer did not need to be totally wiped.
But they were able to clean out the scammer’s download!! Then my jaw dropped when the young man told me that at least three or four people a day bring their computers to them with the same kinds of scams and downloads! Well at least I was in good company.
He confirmed my suspicions. Have you ever looked up a site, and while the site was being connected, an advertisement or “Congratulations, you can win blah blah if you fill out this survey” appears?
When you see that, if you look at the tab that shows the site you are looking for, you will see a different site pop up over the requested site search tab. I have seen this on other pages, in emails from companies I didn’t use. These pop-ups, advertisements, contests, and even fake numbers to real companies are scams. Don’t look at them, just close the window and know that you don’t get something, except a scam, for nothing.
There are some very well trained, wicked people out there who will take advantage of even a weak moment. So what do you do to protect yourself? I am no expert and I don’t know all the tricks. If you know more than these please share them or your experience below.
1. Search on Google (or whatever you use) for the site’s phone number to verify that the “pop up” number is correct.
2. Before you do anything from or on (even a well known site) always check the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) before the address of a site or article. The address of a site or article, or even a photo may have http (Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or FTP (File Transfer Protocol). The URL should have an “s” after the http; or an “S” in front of or behind an FTP. If the “s” follows those letters, that means the site is secure and the information is secure. If there is no “s”, either proceed with caution or look for a new or different URL with an “https” address. (If your computer doesn’t show all of the URL, click on it twice to open the full URL. Almost all sites have to have an http or FTP.)
3. If you are scammed press the key that shows you are connected to the internet and disconnect from the internet. (Looks like a little antenna with waves coming out from its top.) Turn off your computer until you can get it checked by a reputable computer repairman.
4. Trust your gut feelings. If someone is telling you something that doesn’t make sense, even though they have a practiced nonsensical answer, tell them you will call them back, if they will give you their number. This way if you choose to report them you have a possible number for them and can turn it over for investigation. (Unless they give you a hijacked phone number. Yes they do that too!)
5. There are more suggestions and tactics, coming up in future posts. Stay “frosty” out there and don’t trust everyone. Ask questions, do your homework about what to expect. You can look up anything on the internet these days. Feel free to comment about your suggestions and experiences.
Watch the video for a lesson in phishing recognition and protection. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TRR6lHviQc .