On July 15, 2012 I warned you about a scam in which you receive a telephone call purportedly from Microsoft, Dell or other major computer companies or security software companies such as McAfee and Norton telling you that they have remotely determined that your computer is seriously infected with computer viruses and that you need to immediately remedy the problem for fees ranging from $49 to $450. To confirm the problem, they tell you to go to your Windows’ Event Viewer which is a utility that keeps track of program errors and other events on your computer. Everyone’s Windows’ Event Viewer will show many errors, but almost universally they are of no significance. However, when directed to this utility and seeing a long list of problems, people can begin to trust the scammer, not knowing that these “problems” are insignificant. The victim is then directed to a website to download a code or download a software program that permits remote access to the scammer under the guise that the scammer would then remove the offending malware. Too often when the victim downloaded the software, they also downloaded dangerous keystroke logging programs that allowed the scammer and identity thief full access to all of the information in the victim’s computer that, in turn, let the scammer steal the identity of the victim.
This week the Federal Trade Commission filed legal actions against 14 companies and 17 people the FTC said were involved in this scam and a New York Federal Court Judge ordered the assets of these defendants be frozen while the case proceeds. I will keep you informed as to the progress of the cases. Meanwhile, the best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm, so my advice to you is to be proactive and protect yourself from these scams. Whenever you receive a telephone call from someone saying they are with a particular company, you can never be sure that they are who they represent themselves to be. Never give out personal information to someone who calls you on the phone. If you believe a call is legitimate, call the company back at a number you know is accurate. It is also important to remember that none of these computer companies or software security companies will ever initiate a call to you so if someone contacts you purporting to be from one of these companies to tell you that your computer is having problems, hang up; they are scammers. Always maintain up to date security software and if you have questions, call your computer company or your security software company directly at a telephone number that you know is accurate.