How to Dodge the Latest Scammer Tactics

Before diving into it, I would like to make this statement. Like anything that brings greatness to life, there are always the Ying and Yang parts and the internet is no different. The internet enables us to do many powerful things with the click of a mouse, but it also comes with a number of weak points such as online scamming, hacking, etc.

By acknowledging and accepting this other side of the coin, we can celebrate what the internet has done FOR us, instead of only blaming what the internet is doing TO us. That said, if scammers try to trap us and we are aware of it, then we can learn how to dodge their schemes and move on. Life is too short to dwell on the “bad deeds” of those who are preying on unsuspecting individuals. So, let’s learn their 3 common schemes and how to avoid them.

Here are the three most common scams, listed from the least to the most severe:

First scenario: While browsing the web, you accidentally click on a link that downloads a virus file onto your computer. You see a pop-up on your computer screen telling you that your computer is infected with a virus and that you should call the phone number on that pop-up to solve the problem. Like most people, you call the phone number and a tech support person answers and quotes you about $150 to clean out the virus on your computer. You agree and it seems apparent that your computer has been wiped clean. Soon after, a similar pop-up warning of a virus appears, and you then wonder how many times you will have to pay $150. You also wonder when your computer will finally be cleaned and functional. The answer is never. It’s one form of internet blackmail.

Here’s what you should do: If you see something wrong with your computer, save everything you are doing and turn off your computer. Then contact a reputable computer repair business in your town and take your computer in for their opinion and assistance. Never trust anyone who cold-calls or emails you with an offer for virus-cleaning services. Although I do believe there are a few trustworthy providers who offer remote virus cleaning, the chance that you will run into one of them is very small. Therefore, I don’t recommend that you take the risk.

Second scenario:
Someone cold-calls you and says something like this: “Hello, this is Rick Diculous calling from Microsoft, we are aware that your computer is infected with a virus. If you don’t take care of it now, you will lose all of the data on your computer.”

You then ask what you should do, and the caller tells you to open your browser, go to a website where you download a remote access application, and give him/her the remote login access to your computer. Many people don’t know this, but as soon as those scammers get into your computer they will download ransomware onto your computer and blackmail you to get what they really want.

After that, it’s a matter of accepting or denying their demands so you can regain access to your computer and data. You need to wonder: can you trust someone like this to clean your computer, leave your data intact and delete all harmful ransomware? The answer is no. It’s another form of internet blackmail.

Here’s what you should do: If your computer doesn’t seem to have any problem and runs just fine, then ignore those phone calls and hang up. On the other hand, if you feel something is off or see something not working quite right on your computer, save everything that you are doing and turn your computer off. Then contact a reputable computer repair business in your town and take your computer in for their opinion and assistance. If you are using a Mac computer, look for a provider who specializes in Mac; or better yet, take it to one of the Mac stores to let them have a look at it.

Third scenario:
Someone cold-calls you saying that s/he is from the IRS and that you are in default on your tax return. You are given a list of penalties that can be imposed on you by the IRS. When you ask what you should do, s/he will slowly ease the topic about penalties and begin asking for your personal information like social security number, date of birth and address to solve “your problem” for you. If you give the information requested, you have been scammed. They can sell your information to the highest bidder at the underground market or blackmail you again and again to get what they want. Can you trust this person? The answer is no.

Here’s what you should do: Tell the person you don’t believe s/he from the IRS and/or hang up the phone. Of course before you can hang up, that person will start threatening you with all the penalties the IRS can inflict upon you or that an IRS representative will be knocking at your door any minute. Again, just hang up and block that phone number from your phone.

Here’s the fact: the IRS will never call you for such matters. Their policy is to send written letters to your registered address. So, if you don’t see a letter from the IRS but are receiving this type of phone call, you know it’s a scam.

These are the three most common scams plaguing us lately. If you recognize any of these schemes or find this article helpful, please share it with others so they can also avoid these nasty tactics and the potentially damaging consequences. Sharing is caring. Thank you!

Phong Nguyen

BA from St. Olaf College
MBA from University of St. Thomas
SEO from "the School of Hard Knocks."

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