By now we are all aware – at one level or another – of malware and spyware that invades our computers through a multitude of ways. We have ways of combating, to a certain extent, this never-ending stream of crud that ends up on our computing devices. We use spyware removal programs, keep our antivirus programs up-to-date and are careful about what we click on when scrolling through our friends’ status updates on Facebook.
What seems to be making a comeback, though, are scam artists reverting to our old friend: The telephone. Here are just two examples we’ve heard about in the past couple of weeks.
A local bank has been made aware that customers, as well as non-customers, are receiving automated calls on their cell phones with the following message:
“This is a call from Your Bank. Your MasterCard/Visa/Whatever account has been locked. Please press 1 now to unlock.”
What do you think? Would you fall for the above scam?
The recording then instructs the individual to enter their debit card number. There may also be a variation of this phone call that references other banks or asks the customer to enter their debit card number in order to activate it. Please be advised that these calls are a scam and are not being made by your bank. This is a phishing attempt by criminals to obtain your personal account information. Never provide your debit card number or any other private information in response to an unsolicited phone call or email. Just hang up and do not press 1.
How about this one…
Hi I’m calling from the Windows Service Center. We just received a notification of errors on your computer and think that you might have a virus. We know that your computer is running rather slowly and, looking at your web searching history, we think you’ve downloaded some malware.
Are you in front of your computer right now? Yes? Great. Let’s walk through and clean up your computer so that you won’t be having any more trouble.
Both of the above phone calls sound vaguely reasonable. Your bank certainly knows how to contact you and more than one of us has a little bit of paranoia about what Microsoft knows about us and how we use our computers. The reality, however, is that both of these phone calls are scams. One is aimed at getting your banking information and the other is aimed at gaining access to or control of your computer.
- Your bank will never call you and ask for this information.
- Microsoft is not monitoring your PC for problems and will never call you to offer support or technical assistance.
Any time you receive a phone call from someone whom you do not know but they are asking for any kind of information that might identify you, hang up. Do not stop. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Just hang up.
If your mother’s etiquette lessons won’t let you just hang up on them, ask the caller for their name, the name of their company and a telephone number at which you can call them back. This way, you can always call the company the caller claims to be representing – independent of talking to the person making the unsolicited phone call – and find out if it was a legitimate call or not. On the off-chance it is a legitimate phone call, you can then call them back at your leisure.
Stay smart online and offline. As always: If something sounds too good to be true then it probably is.
The “Windows Service Center” scam has been around in Europe for a while but now seems to be coming to America. For an example of how this type of call goes, check out this useful video from Computeractive.co.uk.
Massachusetts’ Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation has issued a warning about the “robo-calling” scam that is seeking to gain access to consumers’ banking and social security information. If you receive one of these robo-calls, Attorney General Martha Coakley urges you to immediately hang up and contact the Attorney General’s consumer hotline at 617-727-8400. Consumers are also encouraged to file a complaint with the office online at www.mass.gov/ago.