We always seem to hear about it more this time of year….”thefts are on the rise”, “there are credit card skimmers at the gas pump”, “someone stole my identity”….sadly, the list goes on.  Your digital world is just as vulnerable this time of year, and it too sees similar spikes in malicious activity during busy commerce times.  In the last week alone, we’ve gotten calls from four different clients who were mistakenly duped into allowing someone to remote into their computer and infect them, jeopardizing their security.  One client did a Yahoo search for a legitimate company’s tech support number, called the first number she saw on the screen, and within minutes was connected to someone overseas (naturally, named “Joe Smith”) who was able to remote in and “find thousands of virus infections”, leading them to recommend a $700 network firewall for their home.  Another client got a persuasive phone call from “Microsoft” telling them that their virus protection was out of date, and they were infecting their iPads, iPhones and other devices in the house unless they could remote in and fix the problem for $250.  These seem almost too comical…but when they’re happening to you, they’re all too real, and the impact can be devastating to your credit and your computer security….not to mention your ego.

While you can’t prevent these types of spams, you can be smarter about stopping them, and encourage your friends, family, and other less-tech savvy friends you know about how to be smarter in these situations.

  1. Be Careful Doing Online Searches!  We’ve talked about this in the past (http://canyonero.org/2016/07/07/who-you-gonna-call/), as it’s so easy to unintentionally contact malicious companies for help.  Malicious companies pay to be the top hit on search engines so they are the first number you see, and hopefully you call them first for tech support.  They hope you call them first, so they can remote into your machine and either lock out all of your data, infect your machine, or try to sell you services.
  2. Cautiously Respond To Phone Calls!  Let me remind everyone…NO legitimate company will EVER call you on the phone and say your computer is running a virus and they need to remote in to see what’s going on.  Trust me….these people are very good talkers, and can make you believe they are in fact legitimate.  If you think you’re in the clear because they remoted in and you hung up before paying them money….think again.  They usually install “Trojan horse” type programs on your machine that won’t activate until a few months down the road, after you’ve already forgotten about this call.  Also know that scammers buy phone lists on the black market- lists of people in older demographics, or people with more traditional, old-fashioned names- and they use those to call and scam unsuspecting people.  If someone remotes in, have a trusted IT company review your computer as soon as possible afterwards!
  3. Watch Out For Email Scams Too!  Most of us are probably smart enough not to fall for the email from the “President of Nigeria that left us thousands of dollars in an account”, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t fall for other email based-scams.  Recently, another local small business owner was contacted about providing her services for a wedding, and after various emails back and forth about the details, the customer wanted to overpay their deposit, and the business owner realized she was getting roped into a scam.  Don’t forget to be careful with craigslist or online-sales meet ups or ads you post or respond to!

Don’t be ashamed if you fall victim to something like this….it’s getting harder and harder to spot a scam from legitimate business.  Educating your contact sphere to be aware and cautious of the different types of scams out there is best way to prevent being a victim.  Please remember these tips and be smart and savvy anytime you work online!