Warning to be vigiliant over Christmas period
By Daniel Flynn, Daniel Flynn IT Services
The best defence against computer and telephone scams is the raising of awareness. For this reason I would encourage people to talk about the issue, and to share articles such as this with their family, friends and colleagues. Anyone with a working email address will get their share of scams and spam, and receiving these has become so normalised that no one even talks about them anymore. This can lead to complacency, and it is easy to forget that there are far more sophisticated criminals out there with far more convincing scams than an email from a far away “prince” offering you a substantial fee if you help him recover his long lost inheritance.
One of the most common current scams starts with a telephone call from someone claiming to be a computer technician. They will tell you they have detected a virus or similar security threat on your computer, and will help you to fix the problem. I have received two of these calls myself in the past 18 months, and I’ve had at least three clients targeted in the past six months alone. The caller may claim to be from Microsoft, your “service provider”, or from a company specialising in internet security. They have three potential goals:
1) To trick you into giving them remote control of your computer
2) To obtain personal information from you
3) To persuade you to transfer money to them, in return for software to eliminate the phantom virus
They will look to create fear and urgency right from the start, telling you it is vital that you follow all of their instructions straight away. They do not want to give you time to think, they do not want you to ask anyone else for advice, and they do not want you to hang up. Victims will often get so caught up in a panic that they make mistakes they would never even consider in normal circumstances.
Remember this key rule. Unless you have a contractual agreement with an IT company to monitor and protect your computers, NO ONE will ever call you to tell you they have detected a virus on your computer. It doesn’t matter how convincing they sound, or what technical jargon they throw at you to explain themselves, you can safely assume that it is a scam. If you receive a call like this, hang up straight away. If you have any doubts or questions afterwards, call a trusted IT professional for advice or assistance.
Bear in mind that these criminals are often not only extremely convincing, but also highly knowledgeable. A client of mine recently was the victim of such a phone call, even though they were suspicious of the caller from the start. They refused to give away any personal information, and hung up when the caller finally demanded payment for software to fix the phantom problem. However, in the middle of the call they made the mistake of following a few “troubleshooting” steps dictated by the caller, and unwittingly gave them full remote access to the laptop being used. At this point the criminal had complete freedom to access whatever data, and install whatever malicious software they wished.
If you receive such a call, you can take down the number and time of the call, and pass on that information to the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (Computer Crime Investigation Unit). Contact details are listed below. If you have any concerns regarding the security of your computer, contact a trusted and qualified professional immediately.
Daniel Flynn IT Services
089 236 5354
Garda National Economic Crime Bureau,