Your Money ; Scam Alert
Offers of tech support could be attempts at identity theft
Helpful Hackers By Sid Kirchheimer
They claim to be Internet security watchdogs offering help with a computer virus you mistakenly downloaded. Their eal intention: to get remote access to your files.
It starts with a phone call from someone claiming to be from a
It’s the “tech support scam,” a ruse that has made headlines over-
seas and now is quietly targeting computer users in this country.
software provider such as Microsoft, Norton or McAfee, or your
computer’s manufacturer. (Other callers say they represent Support
on Click, a firm based in India.) You are told that your computer has
a virus and may be in danger of losing all stored data, but the caller
can help avoid that—if you follow his instructions.
Don’t take the bait.
“What they usually try to do is get you to download software that
they say will fix the virus,” says Paul Aziz, who runs
a computer repair business in Lebanon, Ore., and
teaches older users about Internet security at Linn-
Benton Community College.
“What that software really does is give them remote
access to your computer and everything on it—your
passwords, online banking accounts, everything.”
In some cases, users are directed to the website
www.logmein123.com, which gives the hackers re-
mote access to your computer, allegedly to “fix the
problem.” Or they may ask you to provide your user
name and password.
How are users targeted? Their names and phone
Charlotte Brooks of Bedminster, N.J., received several such calls
numbers can be accessed from online telephone directories. Some calls
may be made with an auto-dialer that calls numbers in sequence.
from men with foreign accents saying they worked for her “com-
puter monitoring firm.” “When I asked which firm, at least three
correctly guessed Norton; the others fudged,” she told Scam Alert.
“Each said it was extremely urgent that we go online immediately
so he could help us get rid of this virus by letting him have remote
access to our computer. When I sent an e-mail to Norton about this,
If a real virus
is ever de-
likely to receive
a security up-
date or warning
directly on your
they had no idea what I was talking about.”
; Callers try to sell subscriptions for “computer mon-
Be on the alert for signs of trouble:
; The warning that you have a computer virus comes
to you by telephone or e-mail. If a real virus is ever
detected, you’re likely to receive a security update
or warning directly on your computer.
itoring” or “security services.” Giving hackers your
credit card information creates an added danger.
; When you answer the call, you hear a ringing tone.
That indicates a callback system that could result in
expensive long-distance charges to you, since these posers often
call from Europe or Asia.
If you believe you’ve already fallen for a phony tech support scam,
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published
contact a computer repair company to stop the hackers’ remote ac-
cess. Also notify your bank and credit card companies, and monitor
your statements for any unauthorized charges. ;
by AARP Books/Sterling.
; If I pay with cash more often, will I spend less?
hances are you’ll spend less
money if you use cash for your
purchases rather than a credit
card or gift certificate. According
to a 2008 report in the Journal of Experi-
mental Psychology, when you pay in cash
and “can feel the outflow of money,” you
have a greater aversion to spending. In an-
other study published in April, research-
ers found that the type of cash you carry
also affects this “pain of paying.” They re-
ported that consumers are more hesitant
to break a larger-denomination bill than
to spend several smaller ones. In other
words, you’re more likely to want to hang
onto a $20 bill than four $5 notes. ; Send
queries to Ask Sid, 601 E St. N. W., Wash-
ington, DC 20049 or to firstname.lastname@example.org.