Scammers, scammers, and more scammers.

Over the last few weeks, I have seen an influx of customers who’ve been scammed by people pretending to offer some kind of technical support. These customers have on occasion received phone calls telling them that their PC is infected, but in at least two cases the PC/Mac had its browser disabled, and the user encouraged to phone a ‘technical support line’.

 

These incidents have raised a few alarm bells for me. They seem to have been targeting those of an older generation, and they all require the use of proprietary remote assistance software. In the most recent case I have encountered (yesterday), the customer handed over several hundred pounds for a three year subscription to this bogus tech support company, and was even offered an upgrade to a lifetime subscription for £1000. After leaving this customer’s wallet substantially lighter, the supposed tech guru didn’t even bother to restore full functionality to the system, instead opting to remotely download a host of undesirable software before printing out a receipt.

 

These attacks are becoming ever more sophisticated, but there are some very basic steps you can take to protect yourself.

  1. Install all updates to your system, they often include security patches. Turning on automatic updates takes the hassle out of this.
  2. Install an internet security suite. This doesn’t need to be a big, expensive, piece of software designed for keeping terrorists out of government databases. What it does need to be though is reliable, effective, and most importantly easy to setup and use. Don’t believe the hype, Apple products need this too!
  3. Make sure your firewall is active.
  4. Don’t visit websites that look and feel suspicious.
  5. Don’t open emails that you aren’t expecting, or from email addresses you don’t know.
  6. Don’t download programs or files that you aren’t sure about.
  7. If you have a popup or a warning message suggesting you need assistance appear, exit the program.
  8. Don’t hand over personal details, especially financial details. If you have a call claiming to be from a bank, hang up, and call back on the number printed on the back of your card.

 

If by chance you do have any issues, and you believe that your system is infected, or is being exploited by a third party, make arrangements to meet with some technical support face to face. Either contact us, or pop along to your local computer repair shop who will be able to advise. A very quick wipe and reload of your operating system is often a quick and effective method for shaking off those pesky criminals – a perfectly doable DIY job. If you do decide to re install the operating system yourself though, it’s often a good idea to use a clean copy of the operating system on a USB device rather than a built-in recovery partition. There are however occasions that more advanced malware can attack the BIOS of your machine – in these cases, hand it over to a pro, flashing BIOS isn’t something for the average home user.