As the Technology Coordinator at the Cheshire Public Library, I am sometimes asked about the legitimacy of virus and malware alerts.
Imagine you’re browsing the web or enjoying a cup of coffee at home and you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft or another well-known technology company. They say they’ve detected viruses or spyware or malware on your computer that could damage your system or steal your identity. They emphasize the danger you’re in and say your bank account and credit card information could be in jeopardy. They offer to sell you anti-virus software or fix your computer. Does this scenario sound familiar?
IT’S A SCAM! Instead of a phone call, these scams can also take the form of pop-up warnings or email messages. These scammers might:
- Try to enroll you in a bogus computer security or virus protection subscription program that does nothing.
- Ask you for your credit card information to bill you for phony services or protection you can get for free.
- Trick you into installing malware that could steal your usernames, passwords, and financial information.
- Ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then change settings so they can then infect your computer.
- Ask you to visit certain malicious websites to enter credit card information and personal details that they then use to make fraudulent charges.
These scam artists take advantage of our reasonable concerns about viruses, privacy, and identity theft. They purposely prey on groups who may not have as much experience with computers and the way they work, like senior citizens. Their aim is not to protect your computer or your identity, but the exact opposite. They want to make money, steal your identity, or take over your computer to do just that. It is these pop-ups, ads, emails and phone calls that are the real security threats.
If you find yourself dealing with one of these scams, please stay calm. Rest assured your computer or identity are not in peril and do not give out any personal or financial information. Report the phone call, pop-up, or email to the Federal Trade Commission by calling the Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338 or TTY 1-866-653-4261.
Technology Help – Need device advice? Schedule a one-on-one lesson in the basics of computers, laptops, tablets, and eReaders. Click here to request an appointment online or call the library at 203-272-2245 to make an appointment. The library also offers a monthly Drop-in Tech Help program.