A reader: Yesterday, I was online and a pop up came on my screen. It said that my computer may be infected. IT told me to call a phone number to get help. So I did. Now, I cannot log on to my computer at all. What do I do?
Action Line: Your computer has been hijacked. It is happening to consumers and businesses alike as well as some law enforcement agencies. It’s called scareware. If you get a pop up or an email saying your PC may be infected, do not respond and do not click on anything. It’s a scam. Trust your own virus and malware protection.
There are also phone calls from scammers telling you they are your tech support with a well known computer company. They aren’t. They will tell you your computer is infected. It isn’t. They might even tell you that your computer will crash if you don’t give them access. What they don’t tell you is that when you give them access, they can get your email list. They can get access to any of your personal information you may store on the PC. They can install malicious software so that they can call you back later to sell you tech support services. They do all this knowing that you will want your computer fixed. They may charge your account with unauthorized charges.
• Make sure your own antivirus software is up to date. You should have anti virus, anti spyware and a firewall.
• Make sure your computer gets updates automatically.
• Do not give anyone access to your PC if you do not know them.
• Do not give your credit card number to anyone you don’t normally do business with.
• If you receive an email or pop up, don’t click on it.
• Use a pop up blocker.
• Don’t be careless. Make sure you know what you are downloading. Is the download coming from a trusted site?
If your PC does become infected:
• Talk to a programmer you can trust.
• Unplug it. Do not connect to the Internet until you are sure you are virus- and spyware-free.
• Change your passwords.
• Monitor your credit card statements and dispute all unauthorized charges. You may even consider canceling your credit card
If you have been scammed, you can file a complaint with ftc.gov or fbi.gov. Don’t forget to talk to your family, friends and neighbors. Tell everyone. The best defense is to help create awareness. Don’t let this happen to you or anyone you know. As always, if in doubt, check it out. Call your local BBB. You can also report it to http://www.bbb.org/council/bbb-scam-stopper/