Falling for Fake Support Popups can be Expensive
You know the ones I’m talking about. You’re minding your own business surfing the web and all of a sudden your browser is unresponsive and you see a message from “Windows” Support telling you your IP address is at risk – or your computer is infected with some hideous virus – and to call their toll-free number IMMEDIATELY. The message can come from “Microsoft” Support – or “Dell” – or “HP” or virtually any major brand who happens to be the one you’re using. The criminals at the other end of this deal spend good money to harvest all this information about you. So it looks fairly legit.
And remember this.
NO LEGITIMATE COMPANY WILL THROW A POPUP ON YOUR SCREEN AND ASK YOU TO CALL THEM
- Not to fix your computer.
- Not to protect your identity.
- Not for any reason at all.
- Just don’t do it.
These scams come in a variety of styes and designs. They cleverly mimic something you will believe.
Reboot your computer and you’re probably fine.
Over the last 3 months or so I have had at least 7 clients fall prey to these evil SOBs.
I have been able to fix all but one, which was a computer so slow it was simply not worth the time and $$$ to fix it. Instead we replaced it.
So fixing the mess they create can be accomplished most of the time.
But it can be expensive in more than one way. Read on.
Their sales pitch is always the same:
- Your IP address is at risk (Pure BS. This does not exist. Your IP address changes at the whim of your internet provider)
- Your computer is massively infected (They will show you proof – even FBI pages that confirm this – all FAKE)
And they want a large chunk of change to protect you from all these things.
As soon as you let them into your computer, you’re screwed. They implement a variety of actions that are not in your best interest – including:
- Password protecting your boot process
- Harvesting all your personal information
- Stealing your account passwords
- Rendering your computer un-bootable
- Rendering your computer inoperable
And then they tell you how much it will cost to get everything working again.
They hold your computer for ransom.
I’ve seen prices ranging from $199 to $2,000
But here’s the really disturbing part.
Recent case histories
A computer I scrubbed a few weeks ago was one of these examples. It was completely clean. No infections. No viruses of any kind. It did have a back door opened into it by the bad guys. This is typical. I closed that with no problem and the machine was – and is OK. These criminals wanted $999 to protect him (from them).
However… In the 30 minutes or so they were loose inside my client’s computer (before he called me and I had him literally unplug it from the wall), they had managed to harvest his email account password and who knows how many others. So a couple of days ago he tried to place an order on Amazon.com and found his account locked. When he finally reached Amazon support, they told him they had been getting orders from his email address – but coming from Canada and 4 other non-Texas locations so they locked the account.
So I went online and reset the passwords for all his email addresses to something so complicated it cannot easily be cracked and most certainly cannot be guessed. Now his email account is secure and the bad guys and not receiving all his email.
And before he can order anything again, he needs to create a new Amazon account – and change passwords to every other online account he has.
And I’m giving you the same advice I gave this client:
- If they harvested your email password, Identity Theft is likely.
- Check on this site to see if your email account has been hacked.
- Put a fraud watch on all your credit cards IMMEDIATELY
- Sign up for LifeLock IMMEDIATELY
I had another client call yesterday with these fake support jokers from iyogi inside his computer. Same scenario. They wanted $2,000 to protect his computer. When I got to it, GoToSupport and ScreenConnect were both running. The system was mostly unresponsive. His previously configured AVG Business Edition protection was gone. A long list of bad products had been installed and removed since then, including SuperAntiSpyware (far from Super), AdwCleaner, McAfee, Malwarebytes (overrated), Avast Free Antivirus, AVG Free Antivirus, drw data recovery software, My Fast PC Helpdesk Client and a couple of fake Flash Player updates.
It took me awhile to close the back doors and remove all traces of the detritus lurking under the hood. After a full AVG install, configuration and scan, the machine was completely clean. No sign of recent infection.
I published a blog that contained a section on the topic of password best practices some time ago and I’m not going to rehash it here, but let me just say that ALL financial accounts should be a completely different type of password than all other accounts. Nothing about your banking and investment account logins should even be similar to regular accounts.