Harrisburg, PA - While many Pennsylvanians can expect to find a new computer under the tree later this month, Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann urges consumers to consider four strategies to protect their new computers from the “tech support scam.”
Wiessmann explains how this scam works:
- You receive an unexpected phone call or an email from someone claiming to work for a computer software company like Microsoft or even a prominent e-commerce brand such as Amazon or LinkedIn. This person claims that they have identified your computer as being infected with a virus, and offers to fix the problem.
- In order to perform the “fix,” you will be asked to pay a fee by providing your credit or debit card information (this could be $50 or more). This person – a scam artist -- will ask for access to your computer’s systems and software from wherever they are located.
- While performing the so-called fix, malware and even viruses are being downloaded to your computer. Your system, files, and information have been compromised.
- You may not discover that your computer has been taken over by a scam artist for days, weeks, or even months – and during this time, the scammer has been watching your every move on your own computer.
- The scam artist may even have downloaded “ransomware” onto your computer – you will not be able to access your computer files until you pay a ransom to the scammer. And once you’ve paid, you still may not get back access to your computer files.
“These con artists are like the proverbial geese-a-laying, but instead of eggs, you will get a computer virus,” said Wiessmann. “In this age where technology makes tasks easier, it is more important than ever for consumers to take the time to investigate offers and take control before handing over money or sharing personal information.”
Wiessmann points to four strategies that can help consumers protect their computers:
- Make sure you have current, effective anti-virus software installed on your computer.
- If a person calls claiming to work for specific company like Microsoft, LinkedIn, or Amazon, tell them you will call them back. Call that company using a phone number you have verified as legitimate (using, for example, the company’s website).
- If you have received an email, contact the company’s customer support website and ask the company to verify that this person is actually one of their employees.
- If you believe your computer is infected, avoid using the Internet and:
- Run a scan using your anti-virus software; or
- Contact a reputable computer repair technician or company and have them check your computer.
As part of the department’s “Holiday Scam Protection Week,” Wiessmann urges consumers to be informed. Know the “red flags” of scams and fraud and who you can contact if you believe you are a victim. Check out the publication: “Scams: Protect Yourself. Protect Your Money” www.dobs.pa.gov/Documents/Publications/Brochures/Scams%20Booklet.pdf
“Although scams may take different forms, the underlying method is often the same: preying on emotions, circumstances, or lack of knowledge to take financial advantage of another party,” Secretary Wiessmann added. “Consumers and businesses cannot afford to take every financial opportunity or transaction at face value. This holiday season, everyone is going to have to be more diligent and investigate before investing their money or sharing personal or financial information.”
Anyone can contact the Department of Banking and Securities at 1-800-PA-BANKS or 1-800-600-0007 to ask questions or file complaints about financial transactions, companies, or products. Members of the public are also invited to connect to the department through Facebook and Twitter, or subscribing to the department’s newsletter.
MEDIA CONTACT: Ed Novak - 717.783.4721
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