This week I am having my coordinator Alina Lopez, a certified crime prevention practitioner in our South Miami-Dade County office, write about an issue that she herself experienced and wanted to share with readers. Since the time she mentioned this, I have had over 10 calls on this scam. Please heed her advice.
An estimated 25 million people became victims of some sort of fraud or scam in 2013, as reported by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). With as much education and prevention that various agencies and organizations, ours included, try to disseminate to the public, people continue to fall victim.
One older scheme, known as Tech Support Scam, is trying to “hack” its way back into our households. A scam artist calls you on the phone posing as a tech center employee. He or she claims that your computer is infected, has been hacked and that the matter is urgent and they can help fix the problem. If the caller has managed to gain the trust of their victim, it can develop from there into several money-making schemes.
According to the FTC, they may:
▪ Ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then make changes to your settings that could leave your computer vulnerable.
▪ Try to enroll you in a worthless computer maintenance or warranty program.
▪ Access all information and documents stored in the computer.
▪ Track your typing so that they can log all your passwords, credit card numbers, etc.
▪ Send viruses without your knowledge to your email contact list.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be tech support and you have not generated that initial call, be very wary. Anyone using high-pressure tactics or who creates a sense of urgency is most likely a scam artist. Simply hang up the phone. Never give control of your computer to a third party who calls out of the blue and definitely never give out your credit card or financial information. A good idea is to register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov.
Worst-case scenario and you have responded to this type of scam, immediately cancel any purchases made with your credit card if you bought some bogus service. Get rid of malware using legitimate security software or take the computer to a professional computer repair business. Change all passwords for accounts as they may have accessed all your files. Lastly, you can file a complaint with different entities such as the FBI’s site www.ic3.gov or your local police department. The FTC doesn’t directly handle individual consumer complaints, but if there are enough reports of the same fraud, they may be able to go after the scam and shut it down. You can obtain more information about this type of scam and others at www.onguardonline.gov. Always be aware and alert!
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.