Avoid FraudThe biggest danger on the internet today is not viruses; it's fraud.
There is a whole industry built upon defrauding people from across the world. They use your computer, your telephone, and your fear to coax your money out of your pocket.
But it's okay, you're not alone. These scammers are professionals, but if you know what to look for, you can beat them at their own game.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission says: "Tech support scammers want you to believe you have a serious problem with your computer, like a virus. They want you to pay for tech support services you don't need, to fix a problem that doesn't exist. They often ask you to pay by wiring money, putting money on a gift card, prepaid card or cash reload card, or using a money transfer app because they know those types of payments can be hard to reverse."
How can you avoid being defrauded?
There is no such thing as electronic or automatic fraud prevention.
The only tool that can successfully deter fraud is your head. In other words, you must recognize and put a stop to any attempt to defraud you.
Rule Number 1: Do not communicate in any way with scammers.
Do not take their bait, and if you find yourself being reeled in, immediately stop! If you find yourself at any point along the way to fraud, immediately stop!
How to recognize fraudScammers know how to use principles of psychology to exploit you:
Scary crimes against you: You have a virus. You've been hacked. There's porn on your computer and it will be revealed to the world.
Confusing stories or proof: Your computer has many errors, as illustrated on screen. Your IP address was compromised, stolen, etc. A foreign nation is trying to hack into your computer.
- Authority. You should believe what we say because we are Microsoft, or are affiliated with them. We are an antivirus company. We are the FBI.
- Immediacy. Do not turn off the computer. Call us now. Your data could get deleted.
- Mismatched source of communication. For example, the return address for Amazon will never be email@example.com
- Unsolicited communication from a big company. For example, Microsoft will not call you, and UPS does not give delivery tracking messages for unexpected packages.
- Spelling and grammatical errors. These reveal either nonnative speakers of English, or careless individuals, not official communication from a large company.
- Doesn't pass the sniff test. Use common sense. For example, is Microsoft in the business of calling by telephone each individual that they suspect of being hacked? Is that person with a foreign accent really named Joshua in Fort Lauderdale?
How to respond
- Remember, everything they say is a lie. A scammer's job is to deceive you.
- Do not obey their instructions.
Do not call them if they tell you to make a phone call.
If they say not to turn off the computer, you should specifically turn it off. Usually that's all you need to do to get rid of a fraudulent message. Hold down the power button for 10 seconds if you can't shut down normally.
Do not go to a website that they suggest; they may instruct you to grant them permission to control your computer.
How to stop when fraud beginsHang up the phone! Turn off the computer!
- If you realize that you are talking to scammers, immediately hang up! You do not owe them courtesy; their goal is to exploit you.
- If you find yourself on the phone with them, do not follow their instructions to go to a website. This usually leads to your granting them permission to take control of your computer.
- If you realize that you have let them into your computer, immediately disconnect them from it. Raise an objection and tell them to stop, or if necessary, forcibly turn off the computer.
- If they take you to your bank's website, immediately disconnect the computer.
Likely they will tell you they made a deposit into your account, and "Oops! I put too many zeroes in that number, would you please give me the difference back?" They can make it look real by moving your own money from your own account into your other account.