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Avoiding Internet Scams

Over the last decade, internet and computer scams have become a billion dollar business. The scammers find it to be a very lucrative business model, and some of their scams can fool the best of us if we are unaware of them.

It's estimated that people were scammed out of more than 800 million in 2014. That estimate only accounts for ones reported to the government. You must also take into account they believe only 10% of the scams are reported to the authorities. So just imagine how much money is actually being scammed out there.

Well, as the old saying goes... Knowledge is Power! Just a little education will get you the knowledge needed to avoid and spot these scams before you become their next victim.
Prepare to be educated! The time it takes you to read this Blog is all it will cost you to help protect yourself from an Internet/Computer scam. A typical scam costs an individual 300 to 600 dollars. Just think of the money you might save by just taking the time to read on...

A variation of the word scam has already been used nine times in this article. I want to refrain from writing that word again...

So, in the interest of making this Blog article more entertaining to both write and read, substitute wording shall now be used. From here on, any iteration of the word scam will be replaced with smurf language. Partly because I find it funny, but mostly because I actually love the Smurfs. It may also help you to remember what you read here today.

Remember, smurf = scam, or any variation thereof.        

Falling for a smurf not only hits you financially, but emotionally as well. Many who have been smurfed never even tell anyone it happened to them. It can make you feel embarrassed, foolish, and even hurt your confidence or self esteem.

We have seen these smurfs hitting people all around the Perry area. Lets work together and help everyone in the local area protect themselves from these nefarious smurfs. People need to be armed with the knowledge on how these smurfs work and how to detect a smurf when you encounter one.
This knowledge needs to be passed on to as many people as possible. Together we can arm our community against these smurfs. Pass this knowledge on to your family and friends! Stop strangers in the street and arm them with some smurf protection too!

Let the education begin...

Points to remember:
  1. No company will ever call you to let you know there is an issue with your computer.
  2. No website can know if you have an issue with your computer.
  3. Never agree to any paid online support (or anything that requires you to pay) without researching or checking on the company first.
  4. You generally won't get the correct support phone number for a large tech company by searching for it online.
  5. Many ads for computer support you find online will actually take you to a fraudulent support company or software.
  6. No program you buy can "speed up your computer" or "fix your computer."


Explaining the points above:

1. Any unsolicited phone call you receive proclaiming to be from a large technology company is bogus. Companies such as Microsoft, Dell, Hewlett Packard(HP), Google, and many more do not call customers. These companies have no way of knowing the condition of your computer. Even Microsoft only receives general error information from your computer, and it is anonymous and not monitored by any human.
Warning: Never trust any unsolicited phone calls about your computer. The only people that call in that way are generally fraudulent.

Example of your browser data:

2. Websites can only know what your web browser tells them.

You may visit http://mybrowserinfo.com/detail.asp for an example of all the data your browser holds.

Looking at the block to the right, you will notice info about you. Possibly the city you are in, who provides your internet, and so on. There is quite a bit of data about you in your browser (click the link above to see). None of it relates to your PC being infected with a virus/malware or the health of your system.

The point is, any website proclaiming your computer has a virus or other issues is a fraud. It's meant to scare you into quick action (action of parting you from your money) before you give it thought. 
Warning:  If your browser goes full screen and prevents you from closing it with scary stuff like virus detected and/or financial info at risk, this is a scam! You can try hitting "ALT+F4" key combo to kill it, or "CTRL+ALT+DEL" to either use task manager and end task on your browser or restart your PC. If all else fails, you can force a shutdown by holding the power button for about 10 seconds (use with caution and at your own risk, forcing a shutdown can have unpredictable results if for instance an update is in progress).

3. Any legitimate business will be happy to wait while you do a check. Any pressure to hurry or pay now should be a red flag. Turn the tables and ask them some basic questions that should be quickly answerable by them. Where are you located? What is your phone number? Ask for a full name of the company and have them spell it. Ask for an email address. Ask for their website address. You can also ask things such as, "How long has your company been in business? How Long have you worked there?" More personal type questions.

4. Fraudulent companies pay big money for advertising. Often times the phone numbers showing at the top of your search are paid ads from these companies. Others may be from legitimate support companies, but they will be a 3rd party support and not the actual company number you were looking for. It can be near impossible to tell the difference sometimes.

5. What applied on number 4 applies here. They will pay to have their company show up at the top of a search. Always research and check a company out before doing any business with them.

6. There is no "all in one" software that can repair or speed up your PC. You will see claims to the contrary, but it simply isn't possible. Some may help with certain situational areas, however often times they will also be detrimental to other areas of your system. For comparison, at the shop for a tuneup (which speeds up and fixes many issues most of the time), we run over 5 different malware/virus scans, 3 system scans, remove intrusive software, run updates on everything, clean out temp and unneeded system files, and repair any damaged or corrupted services. We also do a hardware check. No "magic bullet" single program can do all of that.

Warning: Do Not...

  • Download a driver for your computer from anywhere except the manufacturers official website. As in directly from HP, Dell, Asus, Canon, Etc.
  • Call a number for support until you can verify who the number belongs to. Do a search on the number you plan to call. For instance search our number 515-465-3043. Use the dashes or you will get results not associated with a phone number. Find a company name, see if it matches, and then search for reviews on them.

 For more information:

Malwarebytes has a great article about scams.

Compare this article from 2005 at PCworld to what you may read in recent media about scams. Some of these same scams are still around that are mentioned in an article from over a decade ago. People still fall for them.

Report internet fraud or any kind of internet theft by submitting a claim at the Internet Crime Complaint Center which is part of the FBI.

You can also file a complaint at the Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) Website for many electronic/communications frauds.

Written by Michael on Sunday April 17, 2016