I need to talk about a serious thing today—one of which all of us computer users need to be aware. I’m talking about scams.
This past Tuesday alone, two (TWO!) scammers attempted to trick me via my computer. Neither succeeded, but one almost did (emphasis on almost) and I wish to share what I have learned with all of you.
The number one lesson on scams is that if any software company or service (Microsoft, Apple, McAfee, Norton, etc.) contacts you via a sudden popup on your computer screen and instructs you to call a given telephone number because something really bad is happening (e.g., your computer is infected by a Trojan and your bank account number is compromised) or something bad will happen (e.g., your antivirus protection will expire), do not call that number. At all. Ever.
If you obey the popup, you will get someone on the phone who acts like they are from the company in question and knows what they are talking about. They will tell you that they will help you, and then they will tell you that they need control of your computer. Never, ever give anyone control of your computer. Once you do, the evil person can do anything they want with it.
When I received an email last Tuesday morning that was supposedly from PayPal and stated that I had bought almost $1000 worth of Apple gift cards (I hadn’t), I initially began to fall for this scam. I called the number at the bottom of the email and reached someone who claimed to be from PayPal and said he could help. Then he asked for control of my computer and started to give me instructions on how to give it to him. CLICK! I hung up on him. That was the end of that one.
That very same day, late in the afternoon while I was working, my computer froze and the screen became filled with a huge popup, complete with loud audio of a bot talking, telling me that Windows Defender had detected a Trojan in my computer which had compromised my passwords, bank account information, and I don’t remember what else. It also told me that I needed to call Microsoft at a number on the bottom of the message to fix this. This scam was much more frightening because I had to restart my computer to get the message to go away. This time, I did not call the given number. Nice try, scumbag.
The point that I am stressing here is that you should never call a number that claims to be from a tech company. They will never contact you through a popup.
And finally, if you are unfortunate enough to be scammed by one of these losers, please don’t hate yourself or blame yourself. Don’t be angry at yourself, either. Be angry at these miserable excuses for human beings. They will one day reap what they have sown.