Phone Scams are on the Rise; Here’s How to Stay Safe Online
One of the most common and unfortunately successful Internet scams is perpetrated by people calling users and claiming to be support staff from their Internet service provider, operating system company, computer company, or credit card or bank. The scammer will inform the user that there is something wrong with their computer – possibly a virus or some other malware – or that their credentials for a bank or credit card account have been compromised.
The scammer will attempt to have the user go to a website, usually a phishing site, and give the scammer remote access to their computer in order to “fix the problem”. Or they will require that the user buy and download antivirus software that doesn’t actually do anything but install spyware or some other form of malware on their computer. They also swipe your credit or debit card information when you pay for the “fix”.
The scam thrives on fear and a lack of knowledge on how computer systems and bank systems work. By presenting themselves as an authority figure from a trusted source, such as Windows, Mac, or your credit card company of bank company, they are able to make people believe the information is valid. Second, most people don’t realize how an operating system communicates. No one from Mac, Windows, or any other system would ever call you on the telephone to discuss a computer problem – they have direct access to you through your system!
Think back to some time when you had to update your computer with important security information or a new operating system. You were not called on the phone, you turned on your computer to find a message saying that a new update has been installed or needs to be installed.
The same goes for banks and credit cards. If they were to need to communicate with you, you would get an email first, then either a letter in the mail or a call, but there would definitely not be merely a phone call asking for your credentials: Think about it, a credit card company would not need to ask for your card number, it would already be in their system.
How to Stop Phone Scammers
- Install quality anti-malware software on your computer. If you are momentarily fooled by a phone scammer, when you access a malicious website, your protection will kick in and warn you away or prevent you from downloading damaging software.
- Ask for the person’s specific name and their employee ID number. Many scammers will say something along the lines of calling from “Credit Card Services” without actually naming the credit card. This is done because of the psychology of many people to feel guilty about a credit card account where they have lots of debt or use a lot, and lead them to believe that’s the one they are being contacted about.
- Never give anyone remote access to your computer. The lone exceptions are on calls or Internet service chats where you are the one initiating the call because something is amiss on your system.
- Ask for a callback number. If you’re suspicious of intent, tell the person you are busy and can you call them back in a few minutes. Most are in call centers in another part of the world and will usually hang up on you at this point.