Inflation is up, computer prices are down but scammers don’t care either way!
We are all feeling it, prices of everything are going up and up and up. News headlines are bombarding us with the doom and gloom of high-interest rates and a possible recession ahead. None of this seems to thwart the bad guys of the world, scams and schemes are at an all-time high and your chances of losing precious cash to these scams are real.
Every day here at Mother Computers we sadly encounter the aftermath of these predators.
Their scams are usually targeted at retirees but not always. Often people with lots of computer experience, even people considered “computer experts” can fall prey to these very convincing campaigns to trick people out of their hard-earned money. These scams usually fall under the radar of serious crimes because many people are ashamed about what has happened and don’t report it, which is why we want to assure people that this can happen to anyone, literally anyone, so there is nothing at all to be ashamed of or feel foolish about. These are very elaborate schemes, they look very real and are sometimes almost impossible to distinguish from a legitimate offer, email, or pop-up on your computer. Take a look at the scam email below - replace the logo with whatever bank you are with, and this could be an extremely real-looking email. It's not. This email is a scam.
Our natural trusting instincts assume when we see an email, advertisement, or pop-up from what is supposed to be a trusted source, that we believe them. Although the odds of this happening are somewhat low, the truth is that there is a chance of anyone being exposed to scammers. Scamming is a crime that steals money and information from unsuspecting, innocent people and can have a very large reach as it's just a click of a button for them to target hundreds or even thousands of people.
It’s not always money, often the stress of knowing someone has access to your personal information, possibly access to your entire livelihood and personal information, can cause much more grief and distress than losing a small sum of money. At Mother Computers, we typically see people lose a few hundred dollars, which can really impact someone’s monthly budget but might not affect them over a lifetime. However, we also see people whose losses will impact their lives permanently, have long-term, far-reaching damage, and could severely affect their retirement plans and/or ability to address medical or housing issues. Whether it’s losing your personal sense of safety and security or losing your nest egg, the losses can be astronomical; this is a truly despicable crime.
To help protect our customers, we would like to offer some concrete tips on avoiding these scams and also what to do if you suspect one. Finally, we will give you some strategies on what to do if you are the victim of a scam.
Avoiding the Scam - An Ounce of Prevention:
NEVER ever open an email attachment or click on a link, without confirming who it’s from. This can sometimes be hard to determine as scam emails often look very legitimate. The best way to know for sure is to check the email address of the sender. Contact us or another trusted source if you are unsure. Sometimes emails really look like they are coming from a friend or a company that you are used to doing business with, but in reality, they are not.
Never download a program (.exe) file unless you are 100% sure of the source. An innocent-looking game or tool can often be a cover for a virus or other malware. Be very cautious about the applications you load onto your computer.
Keep Windows updated and Windows Defender turned on. We don’t recommend any extra virus protection as Windows defender is very good as long as it’s updated regularly and never turned off. Aftermarket virus/malware tools often will slow your computer down and can be expensive. They used to be the industry standard but now Windows Defender is more than sufficient for most users. Apple computers have some built-in tools as well but aren't as susceptible to virus attacks in the same way that Windows computers are. The primary concern is keeping your Operating System (OS) updated and following the other tips above.
What to Do If You Suspect a Scam:
Any pop-up that you aren’t expecting should be considered HIGHLY suspicious. Never, ever call a number on a pop-up, it is always a scam. No matter how legitimate it appears. The most common ones look like they are from Microsoft or McAfee but they can look like they are coming from many other sources too, often familiar ones, such as a company that you are used to doing business with or a software product that you use regularly.
Call us or another trusted source. We are happy to help evaluate over the phone if you suspect you are running into a scam, whether it be via email, pop-up, or just online. We are open 9-5 Monday-Saturday and after hours. We do our best to answer messages in a timely manner, via our website: www.mothercomputers.com.
Shut your computer down. Regardless of any instructions you may receive from one of these scams, it is always safest to immediately shut your computer down at the power source and then bring it to us to evaluate. We can scan and remove any viruses or malware to make sure that your personal information is safe. NEVER allow anyone you don’t know personally to have remote access to your computer, this is the number one way scammers steal money from people.
"Talking to people, having open conversations, asking questions, this is the kind of thing that will help people avoid being victimized in the first place," – Vanessa Lafolla, a financial crimes researcher at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, N.S., and an anti-fraud consultant
You've Been Scammed - What's next?
Contact your bank. Let them know exactly what has happened, they will usually recommend you cancel your debit and credit cards, depending on the circumstances. They may also request that you have all your devices scanned and cleaned. We are able to help with that and are familiar with what the banks will require to unlock your accounts, often they need a letter from us to confirm everything has been done properly and professionally.
Bring your devices to us for a tune-up and virus/spyware scan. We offer a $88 special for this service and it includes a full optimization of your computer to remove any offending malware or viruses, any unnecessary or harmful files, and make sure your computer is running at full capacity. We also give it a good cleaning, dusting, and can help tweak any software issues you are having. Sometimes we can also recommend hardware upgrades to help with performance. We usually recommend this once per year regardless but especially after a suspected scam.
Be kind to yourself. Seek some kind words and assurance from friends and/or family. You are not alone, and you are not at fault. Depending on the severity of your loss, you may need some professional support so don’t be afraid to reach out. We are also happy to help educate and discuss what has happened to help assure you that your computer and data are safe and review the prevention steps so this doesn't ever happen to you again.
We have more tips and advice on this topic in a blog post we wrote a while back, check it out for more on this topic: https://www.mothercomputers.com/post/did-you-get-hacked