Remember how I’m always saying that sometimes it’s hard for me to know what it is that people don’t know? This is why I’m forever grateful to friends and family for asking me questions or falling for scams, so that I have something to post about. This time it was my mom… Sorry Mom, gotta warn the folks, don’t take it personally!
My Mom and Step-Dad recently purchased a new printer. In an effort to try and hook it all up themselves (and not bother me with endless phone calls, for which I am grateful), my mother called Brother Technical support (Brother being the name brand of the printer she purchased). Or at least she THOUGHT she was calling Brother Technical Support. Who knows what she did a search for, but whatever it was, she did not find the correct phone number for Brother.
She called the number, where the person on the phone proceeded to remote control her computer, install a “malware/virus scanner” and scan her computer. Cause, yeah, her “malware” is totally the reason she can’t figure out how to plug in her new printer. After this “scanner” showed that she had hundreds of infections on her computer, the person then requested $160 to fix them and to support her computer for the next year! WOW. She obviously at this point realized it was a scam and hung up the phone. She then called me in a panic because they had access to her computer. She came down and picked up me and my kids and we went up to her house where I cleaned up her computer of anything that would allow these people back into her computer, removed the illegitimate malware scanner, and installed my favoritest antivirus program, ESET.
Then I scanned her computer with a real malware removal tool, Malwarebytes, which of course found that her computer had ZERO infections.
So, what do we learn from my mother? First not everyone has a daughter like me that can come bail them out. Also, not everyone can understand right away that these people are trying to scam you. It can be scary seeing 100’s of infections on your computer! You can panic, and want to fix it right away, even if it means paying these scammers $160! I’m sure they make BANK.
1. Do NOT call random support numbers. If you are not actually on the manufacturer’s website, do not trust the phone number you are looking at. Do a search for the manufacturer’s website and then look at the URL when you are clicking, or check the manuals/packaging of your product for a support telephone number.
2. If you do happen to call someone for support, don’t let them remote control your computer, unless you know for sure you are talking to an actual support tech for the brand. For example, you are on the phone or on a live chat with someone from Dell, you can let them remote control your computer. You are on the phone with “John” from “Help My Computer Hates Me”… don’t let them remote control your computer. Also, along these lines, figure out why they want to remote your computer. If you need help finding the plug from the printer to the computer, they probably don’t need access to your actual computer.
3. Don’t give anyone your credit card number. Check your warranty before you call so you know exactly what should be covered. Don’t pay for service or parts that are covered under your warranty. Especially don’t hand over a credit card number out of fear. If they are using scare tactics to sell you something, hang up the phone.
So be careful out there. Do a scan on your computer with Malwarebytes before you call anyone. If Malwarebytes says you are clean, don’t believe anyone trying to tell you/show you otherwise.
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com