The Anatomy of a Scam
We work on dozens of PCs each week, and we can tell you from personal experience there are a lot of people getting swindled every day – and not just for a couple of bucks – but sometimes for hundreds of dollars.
Sometimes we tend to think people get a little careless out there on the ‘net at times, and I’m sure they do – all of us do. But today we got a taste of what a lot of these poor folks who get scammed out of hundreds of dollars run into on the web. And it’s not pretty and it can be scary – unless you know what to do.
This morning, I was browsing the web suddenly I there was a loud, frightening beeping sound coming from my laptop speakers. It must be the dire beeping of a dying hard drive – or a terribly sick PC. Those were my first thoughts. When I looked up at the screen this is what I saw.
Notice at the top of his screenshot that it says, “Virus alert” and in the background, it looks like a computer screen (my computer screen) with a bunch of fatal errors being displayed.
This kind of sleazeball scam, with all these dire warnings, awful computer noises, and a browser that you can’t easily close, is a scam designed to scare those who are not computer savvy. When they panic, they don’t think, and they call the toll-free number for help. But help is the last thing they’ll get if they call the number displayed on their screen.
But don’t let them fool you. YOU can beat these sleazebags!
Notice above, that my REAL ISP and my REAL IP address are displayed, which I imagine causes panic in those who don’t know that every browser broadcasts your IP address, location, your ISP, and a lot more information about you. If you don’t believe that, visit https://www.whatsmyip.org/ and see how much data your browser tells the world about you.
With all this info broadcasted from your browser constantly, it’s easy for these scammers to tap into that info stream and make it look like there is something very wrong with your computer – after all, they have your ISP, your IP address, your operating system (even 64 or 32 bit) an all kinds of other information. It is all very convincing.
And though they try to make it seem personal by showing your personal IP address, browser & operating system, and name of your ISP, you’ll notice they don’t say “Dear TC”, Dear Charles, “Dear Sally”, etc., they just say “Dear (insert the name of your ISP here) customer”. “Dear customer” should always be a warning that something may not be right.
Then they tell you that “for your safety”, you won’t be able to close your browser unless you call their toll-free number and talk to a “certified technician”. More like a certified scumbag!
And sure enough, when you try to close your browser, you can’t! Instead, you hear more awful beeping and buzzing sounds. All intended to induce panic and get to you to call some slimeball company’s toll-free number.
And if you do call, they’ll set you up – really set you up. When you call the number, they will give you a link to connect your computer to them so they can “analyze” and “fix” your computer. And of course, they’ll run fake scans on your computer showing a litany of fake PC-killing malware and viruses.
They’ll show you hundreds, even thousands of fake files that (they say) are infecting your computer – and for just $99 or $199, or even $299 – they can clean all this harmful stuff off, fix your computer, protect your identity, and save your computer from terrible things. And sadly, many people, pay these miscreants. We have people tell us they’ve paid these hucksters up to $500 these scumbags (we helped them get their money back).
There are a lot of lessons here… and several ways you can beat these scammers. Remember these things:
Scammers are not stupid:
If you panic, you’re going to get swindled. Keep your head- it’s only a PC, not a life.
Microsoft nor any other legitimate computer repair company is ever going to show you a warning like the one above – not now, not tomorrow, NOT EVER. If you see a popup like that, that tells you your computer is infected or has serious errors or both and/or asks you to call a toll-free number. DO NOT DO IT. CLOSE YOUR BROWSER IMMEDIATELY.
HOW TO CLOSE YOUR BROWSER IMMEDIATELY:
It’s quite likely that you won’t be able to close your browser the normal way — that is by clicking the X at the top right corner of the browser or by right-clicking the browser’s icon in the taskbar and choosing “Close window”.
But you can close your browser if you do not panic and do one of the following:
a.) Press the ALT key plus F4. I pressed ALT + F4 twice.
b.) Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc and open task manager. Right-click on each instance of your browser that you see and choose “End task” – disregard the Windows warning about losing data, etc.
c.) Press & hold down the Windows key and tap the R key. In the Run box which appears type SHUTDOWN /R – this will restart your computer. You may see a warning that certain programs are open and need to close before you restart – do not click Cancel. Let Windows close all programs and reboot.
d.) If nothing else works, completely power off your computer using the power switch, and leave it off for a couple of minutes. then turn your computer back on.
Tech support scams are everywhere, and you could be faced with one any time you’re browsing the web.
No antimalware or antivirus can stop you from picking up the phone and calling a toll-free number. But you can protect yourself. Never panic. When people panic, they don’t think clearly.
Remember that these scumbags are smart… but you are smarter. Think ahead. Be prepared for something like this, so if this happens to you, you’re ready for it, and you know exactly what to do.
Always use common sense. NEVER call a toll-free number that appears suddenly while you’re browsing the web. Never give these criminals your credit card number. And never give them access to your computer by allowing them to connect remotely.
Look carefully at the pictures shown above and familiarize yourself with them. Most online tech support scams use similar tactics. Then follow the tips in this article, and you’ll know how to get yourself out of a situation like this if it ever happens to you.
Don’t let Slimeballs Incorporated steal your money or ruin your computer. You are smart and now you know what to do.