Scammers Hacking Victims' Computers by Calling on the Phone

Con artists use old-fashioned technology to gain access to consumers' info.

February 5, 2013, 7:05 AM

Feb. 5, 2013 — -- Con artists are using old-fashioned technology to gain access to consumers' newfangled technology.

I pride myself on knowing all the latest scams, but I had never heard of this one, so I'm assuming you haven't either. Here's how it works: A crook calls you on the phone, poses as a technician from a big company like Microsoft, and claims he's detected a virus on your computer. He (or she!) then asks for access to your computer in order to "help" you.

From there, the scheme can devolve into several different money-making ploys, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The con artist may:

This is where my oldest and best advice comes into play. I always advise: "be the hunter, not the hunted." In other words, learn to be skeptical of any stranger who comes at you claiming urgency and demanding money.

Instead, take the time to do your own search. Find a published help line number for your hardware or software manufacturer or Internet service provider and dial it yourself. Don't rely on any phone number or website the caller provides, as it may be a fake.

In fact, be careful where you look up the contact information you need. A large company's home page is a good place to start. An online ad is not so reliable, because the FTC says con artists have begun boldly placing ads containing false information in order to build an aura of realism around themselves.

Does this scheme sound sickeningly familiar because you've already fallen for it? If so:

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