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Computer repair calls are a scam, BBB says

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Scammers tell victims that their computers have a virus, then take control of accounts.

By Staff Reports

ROANOKE — “This is me moving your mouse.”
Sure enough, a Dublin consumer’s computer mouse cursor began to move across the screen on its own.
Someone had taken control of her computer. Unfortunately, minutes later they would have control of her bank account, as well.
Multiple consumers have told the Better Business Bureau in Western Virginia that they have been contacted by an overseas computer repair company offering virus protection and claiming to work for Microsoft.
Consumers say they are being told by these callers that their computer has viruses and needs of protection that only they can offer.
“Microsoft has no connection with these calls and will not call your home to offer virus protection,” the BBB said. “The calls are aimed at gaining remote access to a computer and collecting exorbitant fees for services.”
According to Microsoft, after gaining access to the computer, these callers can then install malicious software, steal personal information, take control of the computer remotely or direct consumers to fraudulent websites where they are asked to enter their credit card information.
One consumer says the caller even placed a message on her screen to read to her credit card company. “The man told me to read ‘I am the owner of this credit card and I want to release these funds for an overseas transaction.’ Unfortunately I did just that.”
The scammer may make the following claims to appear legitimate, the BBB said:
• Your computer is infected with a virus and it has “somehow” reported that fact to the technical support company.
• Your computer is infected with a virus and it is sending out spam e-mails to people.
• Your computer is “somehow” reporting critical software or hardware errors to the technical support company, or sending out error messages, and it is in imminent danger of breaking or failing.
• Your Windows operating system is corrupted and about to fail.
“Always be wary of cold-calls,” said Julie Wheeler, president of the BBB in Western Virginia. “Never give out personal information to someone you don’t know. If they claim there is a security threat to your computer, hang up and call your computer company directly.”
BBB advises consumers to follow these tips to protect themselves from scammers attempting to access their computer:
• Install a firewall and anti-virus program to protect the computer and personal information. Update these programs frequently.
• Update your operating system and web browser software regularly.
• Protect your passwords by keeping them in a safe place. Create different passwords for each online account that you have.
• Never give personal or financial information to unsolicited callers.
• Contact your service provider directly if you are concerned you may be exposed to viruses or other security threats.
• Do not open or respond to emails or click links from unknown senders; this might infect your computer with malware, or confirm that a spammer has reached a valid address.
For more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455.