(Asbury Park Press (NJ) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 28--On a recent evening, Howell resident Josephine Leuci received a telephone call.
The man knew that she had purchased a new computer, but didn't buy a warranty. "I am going to show you all the viruses that you have," he said. He wanted her to buy an extended warranty.
He asked Leuci to make two keystrokes, and he gained access to her computer remotely. Warning messages appeared. "Look at all the red flags. Look at the red flags. You have some serious viruses," the man said.
Nervous, Leuci told the man she had to go and hung up the phone. She telephoned Dell, who confirmed that she had been scammed. When she turned her computer back on, a prompt for a password, which she never set, appeared.
Dell sent her some disks and worked with her to fix the damage to her computer and get it up and running.
Leuci called Press on Your Side to warn others of the scam. "I am a fairly intelligent person and I am kicking myself," she said. "I am upset that someone did this to me. I should have known better."
Scammers are making the telephone ring.
Some guy called Brick resident Mike Nolan and said he was "from Windows."
"I am thinking, 'Maybe it's a window company,' " Nolan said. "He said, 'No, you have a virus, you have a virus. ... I am calling from Windows. You have a very serious virus. I need you to go downstairs and turn your computer on."
Nolan just hung up the phone. "This is not an innocent little prank. It's pretty serious," Nolan said.
Press on Your Side thinks so too and asked some experts to weigh in.
"What the end goal is for any scam is, of course, money," said Detective Joe Sembler who is with the New Jersey State Police's cyber crime unit. "You have to be very skeptical and be careful."
One possible line: we have detected some rogue programs on your computer or your warranty is out of date. We want to fix it. The hope is you will turn over your credit card information, said Robert Siciliano, a McAfee online security expert.
"They are simply playing on the fact that you don't realize that Microsoft or Apple or whoever isn't going to ever call you," Siciliano said. "You will never in your life get a phone call from Microsoft."
So how does the caller know you just bought a computer? They are more or less guessing, Sembler said.
"Anytime that someone calls you out of the blue or sends you a message that says, 'I need to access your computer,' it should be a red flag that they are up to something," said Detective Jose Samol, a State Police investigator with the cyber crime unit.
Trust your gut
Trust your gut when something doesn't feel right. "They really need to be on heightened alert," said David Schwartzberg, senior security engineer with Barracuda Networks, an information technology and security company.
Here are some ways to keep you out of a scammer's crosshairs.
--Make sure your computer's antivirus, anti-phishng, anti-malware software and operating system is up to date, the state police detectives said. Often, software companies will push out updates automatically. Check your firewall settings to prevent unauthorized access to your computer.
--Opt out of people search engines online, such as pipl.com and spokeo.com, to make it harder for a scammer to find information about you, Schwartzberg said.
--Sign up to the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov, to cut down on calls from telemarketers.
--Don't click on any links in an email purporting to come from a bank or auction website, Samol said. They can send you to fake sites designed to gather your private information. If you suspect your bank is trying to contact you, call them on the telephone or go to the bank's website yourself.
--Check out www.ic3.gov where you can find more information about cybercrimes or file a complaint with law enforcement.
Do you have a consumer problem that needs solving? Contact business writer David P. Willis: 732-643-4042; firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/dpwillis732.
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