Worth Repeating …

I’ve touched on this subject before, but I think in lieu of all the recent problems folks have been having with this lately, it is worth repeating.

Have you seen a screenshot similar to this on your computer lately?

Hopefully not! … (and if you do see one in the future, you will know exactly what to do 🙂

Looks ominous…Your data has been exposed, as well as you email passwords, bank account passwords, and social media information.  All of your private photos and other sensitive files are at risk!  Ouch!

But take heart…it’s a fake!!!

Repeat:  IT’S A FAKE!!!

IT’S a SCAM!!!

How do I know this?  … I’ve seen this played out over and over again (especially recently – there seems to be a sudden rash of these messages).  Microsoft is not going to call you or pop up a message instructing you to call them! … neither will any other legitimate company.  It’s a heck of a way to make a living – but they do!…and a pretty good one at that, because a lot of folks fall for the SCAM.

For now, just take my word for it and read on.

Don’t click on the windowDefinitely do not call the number listed.  These “Windows Certified Live Technicians” are trying to SCAM you out of money, and will possibly attempt to steal information from your computer, or even introduce a problem you did not have prior to their “visit”.

Here’s how the scam usually goes:

You’re innocently surfing the web or checking a news article, or any number of other activities when a screen similar to the one above will suddenly pop up on your computer.  It may be flashing.  It may be accompanied by sounds (such as sirens).  It looks official…it sounds official, and it has an air of authority and directness that demands your attention.  The message may even give you a time limit to call in order to “save” your computer.  Perhaps you have been experiencing a few oddities on your computer lately, and then this message, coincidentally timed, tries to confirm your thoughts…”maybe I do have a problem with my computer…”  And then there is the fear factor.  And after all, the cost seems reasonable in order to “save” your computer.

You dutifully call the number provided (usually toll-free – how convenient), and are connected with a “technician”.  This “technician” will want remote access to your computer, as well as some money (usually a reasonable amount to begin with – most likely charged to a credit card) to “resolve” the issue.  They will sound professional, and somber (after all you have a SERIOUS problem).  Some will actually want you to sign a “consent” (and/or authorization) form! (in case you decide to dispute the charge later).

(Groan) … You give them remote access (they will instruct you in the process).  At this point, they will poke around a bit.  Then usually, they will tell you that you do not have adequate Virus or Malware protection, or it has failed!  They will often display windows for you that list problems or errors (these may even be real errors on the computer – every computer has them, or another fake window such as the one below).

At some point, they usually escalate the problem (and the price!) after they “determine” the problem is worse than they thought, and will take a “higher level of expertise” to resolve it.  They will attempt to get you up as high as they can in the price range ($300.00 or so), and if you start to hesitate at the price, they will most often “cut you a deal”, and remind you that time is running out for your computer.

Once they have access to your computer, they can do ANYTHING!…they may appear to be “fixing” the problem, but they may very well be downloading data off of your computer in the background, or actually downloading a virus or other malware to your computer.  Or they simply may be stalling and making the “fix” look good.

Once it’s all said and done…

Best case scenario is that they take your money, and don’t do anything harmful to your computer (nor do they usually do anything useful!).  This is what I most often see as a result.

Worst case scenario is that they take your money, possibly steal data off your computer (such as financial files or tax forms), possibly actually infect your computer, or totally disable it!  This, unfortunately, I have seen as well.  And now you have to deal with the fact that they have your credit card number and possibly other sensitive information from your computer as well (which could actually lead to Identify Theft)!

And how can you trust the security of your computer after such a breach?…even if it appears to be fine?  What ELSE did they do?

Rather than respond to the pop-up – turn off your computer (never mind that the pop up message warns you NOT to do this).  If you have to, shut the computer down manually – press and hold in the power button for 5-20 seconds until the power light goes out.  Note:  You normally do not want to shutdown your computer in this manner, but sometimes these “technicians” will lock you computer and you cannot shut it down in the normal fashion.

After waiting a few moments, restart the computer….and VOLLA! … the problem has suddenly disappeared, and the computer is working normally!


If not, then call a REAL technician.

This SCAM will often be initiated with a telephone call as well.  Same SCAM…different avenue.  Hang up.

Now mind you, there are some real pop-up screens out there (such as a Ransomware screen):

If you get one of these, you may be in serious trouble…

Which is why you need to practice safe computer habits:

Don’t be in a hurry when you see something as the above, or anything that falls outside of the norm, or seems off or suspicious.  Think it through.  If you’re unsure as to whether you actually have a problem, call a local professional (such as The Computer Man), and wait for their response before proceeding (no matter how threatening the message on your computer is – or how worried you might be).

Never open the doors of your computer to a stranger!  (I.E.  give remote access to your computer) – except perhaps to a legitimate repair technician.  For instance, if you own a Dell computer, and it is under warranty; if you call Dell for technical support, they may want remote access to your computer.  But note the pattern – you called them – they did not call you, or pop up a message on your computer.  In this case, by all means, grant access.

Ensure you have proper Virus and Malware protection.

Ensure you have a current data back up (and preferably a complete system image backup).

Ensure you have some sort of off-site backup (on-line or in your car for example).

Ensure you employ safe email practices (when opening attachments, clicking on links in a message, etc.).

If you’re unsure of any of the above – call me! … I will end up costing you a lot less money, and will provide a lot more satisfaction! … as well as peace-of-mind.

Be safe out there!

And beware of all the SCAMS out there.  There are a lot!  A quick Google search will yield a lot of useful information.  But even here, be careful on the search result links…some of these can be fakes or produce harmful results as well…but that’s a topic for another day.

Take Care,