Does your mechanic give you a call when he or she thinks your car is running poorly? Probably not. Still, many people are convinced when they receive a call from a so-called "technician" claiming there are errors on their computer that need to be addressed immediately. Sometimes these callers claim to be from Microsoft or some other reputable company. Either way, the next step for them is getting their victim to allow them access to his or her computer. This starts with gaining the person's trust.
Some people are wise enough to end the call right here. Unfortunately, too many trusting people follow this "helpful" scammer's instructions. The scammer will then guide the victim into the Windows Event Viewer which contains all of the systems error logs. Now, the Windows Error Log looks a lot scarier than it actually is. A typical Log looks like the picture below:
As you can see, there are a lot of errors shown. Fortunately, most of these errors are extremely low level and do not affect any performance or stability of the computer itself. However, a telephone scammer will show this list to a victim and scare him or her into believing that viruses have caused these errors and that they must be allowed access quickly to help.
The scammer will then send the victim to a fake website that looks like a legitimate IT repair company. From there, the victim will be told to download a remote access software to allow the scammer access to the victim's computer. They may even use legitimate software like LogMeIn or Teamviewer. Regardless of the tool used, once downloaded and run, the scammer now has access to everything in the computer. In addition to charging the victim money to "fix" the machine, the scammer may also decide to simply browse through your computer, install new viruses or even steal data.
The Real Deal
This is typically how the scam works. There may be some slight variations, but at the end of the day, the process is the same:
1. They will call to inform you that they received a report from your computer stating it has viruses
2. Show you the error log to gain your trust
3. Make you download remote software to gain access to your computer
4. Charge you money for fixing nothing while potentially stealing anything on your computer and installing malware
Now that you are aware of this scam, you can stop it before it starts. Always remember that Microsoft, Dell, Apple, etc will NEVER call you. Each of them have their own support teams that require you to call them. It will NEVER be the other way around.
Unfortuantely people prey on the weaknesses of others. When it comes to technology, many people are in the dark and just don't know any better. What seems like a good thing quickly turns into a nightmare. Please spread the word so more and more people can be aware of such a scam and stop any more incidents before they start.
If you have already let a scammer into your machine, we recommend scanning it for viruses and monitoring emails and bank statements for any changes. It may even be worth notifyng your bank and/or credit card companies if you have any sensitive data stored on your computer. As always, if you have any questions, give us a call!