Recently, someone I know saw a message pop-up on their computer saying that they’d been hacked. The message had a phone number and said to call the number right away. So, the person did and gave them all kinds of information.
The trouble was, the pop-up was a scam and not from any legitimate company or source!
This, and other types of scams are appearing now. Another type is where you get a phone call, usually saying the same thing or similar, that your computer has been hacked or is causing some sort of problem.
So, how to protect yourself? First, the pop-ups. Just as with phishing e-mails, these pop-ups will claim to be from a legitimate source, like Microsoft or your bank. They can really scare you at first, but don’t panic and don’t call any numbers listed or go to any websites listed in the pop-up! Chances are that any phone number or website posted on the pop-up will be to a “scam artist” or “center” where they’ll take your information and use it for nefarious purposes, or, in the case of a website listed, you computer will really be hacked if you go there! And, neither Microsoft nor your bank or other institutions will contact you via pop-ups on your computer if there is a problem.
If you’re really not sure and the pop-up scares you into thinking there is a problem, do not call the number listed on the pop-up! And don’t visit any websites or send any emails to email addresses listed on the pop-up either! If the pop-up claims to be from Microsoft or your computer manufacturer, call or contact Microsoft or your computer manufacturer, directly, through their legitimate numbers that came with your computer package!
If it claims to be from your bank or an institution or company you know and have dealings with, do the same thing, that is, call them directly through the numbers on material you have from them or through the phone book or their website. Don’t use any numbers or go to any websites listed on the pop-up!
If it’s from a source you don’t recognize, do note it, but otherwise ignore it, as it may just be a front name. However, if you have an anti-virus program, I would do a scan of your computer, just to be sure. And see if the pop-up comes up again in the future. If it does, especially if it does so often, it may be that you do have a virus or other malware. Here, I would contact my local computer store or a computer security expert and not any numbers or websites or email addresses shown in the pop-up.
As for phone calls, you can often recognize these if you have caller id. They will often be numbers that don’t look like a normal phone number, such as “86483”. If you do answer, they will often claim to be from a Microsoft call center and will claim that they need info from you about your computer, usually passwords you use, because of some problem. And, if pressed, they often cannot give you specifics of the problem. Again, they are a complete scam. And, they could claim to be from your bank or other important institution you deal with, like the IRS.
I know people who’ve gotten these calls, too, and I did get one supposedly from Microsoft. I knew it was a scam, but was curious what they would say when pressed for specifics, but they were vague and insisted that, “it was my computer” and wouldn’t say more than that. Needless to say, I never gave, nor intended to give, any information whatsoever, even before I answered the call. And if the caller is threatening, you know it’s a scam. Companies, and government institutions will not contact you in this manner, nor are they likely to be threatening over the phone.
Again, here, if you’re not sure, don’t give any information over the phone to the caller, nor should you call any numbers left from a voice message.. Hang up and call the institution or company itself, using the numbers you already have for them and they’ll tell you if there’s a problem. Most likely there isn’t and they’ll let you know that it was a scammer who called you.
You may want to report it to the police as well, though they won’t really be able to do anything except take it as a heads up if it’s a new scam hitting the area. However, if you do fall for the scam, report it to the police, especially if the scammer starts harassing you or shows up in person!
So, if you get an “urgent message” in the form of a pop-up, phone call, or of course, an e-mail, don’t panic, don’t call or contact using numbers or websites or e-mail addresses listed in the message, (and don’t reply to said e-mail either!) and contact the source company directly using their legitimate numbers, websites, or email addresses, not those listed on the message you received!
Be safe and happy computing! Happy 100th posting! Merry Christmas and a
Happy New Year, too!
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