Many times, the story of a telemarketing scam starts with, “He had this foreign-sounding accent and was difficult to understand. I had to ask him two or three times what he said.”
For some reason, this seems especially true if you use that 800 number to call for some kind of help, whether it be advice about your credit card or technical help with your computer. There is not much we can do about it. This is just the way things are in the 21st century.
This situation and the experience we have all had at one time or another all add up to an opportunity for thieves to get into your computer, your life and your pocketbook.
Assuming we have been conditioned to believe that only an accented person can help us with our computer glitches and problems, we are primed to step into a clever trap set by ID thieves and others wishing to mess up our lives.
It works like this:
You are sitting before your computer, and you get a message from someone claiming to represent Microsoft. They tell you there is a serious problem with your computer, and your database could be compromised. You may be given a phone number to call, or your phone may simply ring and you end up talking to someone with an accent. They tell you that they can fix the computer right then and there; all you have to do is follow instructions. All this looks and sounds so legitimate. They tell you to type in some codes, ask you to click on this box or that box, and you keep doing it.
There are all kinds of end lines for this scenario, none of them good for you. The computer is “fixed” all right. It’s fixed so they can hack into it and mine your database with impunity. If you do online banking or store sensitive data, you could have a real problem, not just one made up by the crooks. To add insult to injury, they also want your credit card number to pay for the “service,” and therefore they get your credit card account.
The reality: Microsoft does not call you to tell you there is a problem with your computer or send emails or pop-ups. You should no more give out your credit card number in cases like this than to give it to someone in West Africa. If you are contacted in this manner with a scare tactic, you should take your computer offline and shut it down.
Call your computer tech and have him check to see if you have had your database compromised or if there has been some malware installed.
Don’t get me wrong, I like computers, but it is a love-hate relationship. They are a wonderful tool when used by honest, law-abiding folks and terror when the crooks get involved.
It makes me wonder: How long would it have taken Abraham Lincoln to write the Gettysburg Address if he used a computer and had to deal with the Cyber Crooks?
Neil Winget is the president of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.