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TMCNet:  Computer tech: 'A lot of people have been scammed already'

[May 29, 2013]

Computer tech: 'A lot of people have been scammed already'

May 29, 2013 (Fergus Falls Daily Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A local computer business owner wants to warn residents about a computer virus scam that's hit more than 20 of his customers over the past couple weeks.

"It's kind of a growing issue," said Cody Mills, owner of Straight Forward Computing in Battle Lake. "I believe that a lot of people have been scammed already." The alleged scammers cold call and say they're concerned about the person's computer not functioning properly or tell people it's infected with viruses. They often identify themselves as being from Microsoft and say they can help fix a computer for free.

"And that's how they get a lot of them to bite," Mills said. "Everybody kind of latches on to that 'free' word. You're not going to know any better. You're just going to trust that they're right, especially when they're saying 'free.'" The scammer will guide people through a few places on the computer, ending up in an error log with warnings, according to Mills. The errors and warnings are normal, but it sets the hook for the scam.

When people download the program as instructed by the scammer, there's a Trojan (computer virus) attached which disables anti-virus programs. Once it's installed, it steals your information and sends it back to the scammer group.

Sometimes after the program is downloaded, the scammers will ask for money, even though they might've said they could fix it for free.

Mills just wants people in the area to be aware of the scam.

"When they do call, it'll show up on your phone like a local number," Mills said.

If you call back right away, you get routed overseas, he said. But the number's usually disconnected after a few days.

Mills has heard from scam victims throughout Otter Tail County. While computer scams certainly aren't a new phenomenon, this is the first time Mills has encountered this type of scam.

"It's kind of interesting, to say the least, because I've never actually heard of it before," Mills said. "It seems to be growing." The first indication to him that it was a scam was the cold calling. Because if it's truly Microsoft, it won't just cold call people, he said.

Once the scam has hit you and your computer, Mills' best advice is to have a tech you trust scan your computer to remove any viruses. He's scanned a few computers already for people who've fallen victim to this scam.

"I'm just more concerned by the people that are being taken by this," Mills said. "That's a good way for identity theft and a lot of people won't realize it." ___ (c)2013 the Fergus Falls Daily Journal (Fergus Falls, Minn.) Visit the Fergus Falls Daily Journal (Fergus Falls, Minn.) at www.fergusfallsjournal.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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