New computer scam strikes Lake CountyA recent scam has been executed by at least two individuals calling Microsoft and Cisco customers and charging them to remove nonexistent viruses from their computers.
By: Claire Hoffert, Lake County News Chronicle
A recent scam has been executed by at least two individuals calling Microsoft and Cisco customers and charging them to remove nonexistent viruses from their computers.
Ward Melenich, a partner at JAW’s Computers in Two Harbors said he has had three or four customers each week bringing their computers to the shop. Upon inspection, the computers are found to have no problems.
“People come in and say someone called them saying something’s wrong with their computer,” Melenich said. “(The scammers) take over the computer remotely and spend 2-3 hours playing around ... and then charge (the customer) .”
According to Melenich, customers have been charged up to $160, but those are only the cases he’s seen in the store. It’s possible that others have been charged more. Melenich has begun using social media sites to warn people about the con-men’s ploy. He’s also offered to help customers who have questions.
“It is a scam. They will take over your computer and charge you lots of money for nothing,” he posted on the JAW’s Computers’ Facebook page. “There is probably nothing wrong with your computer, but you could bring it in for free diagnosis if you are worried.”
Occurring over the past several months, the scammers have increased their activity over the last few weeks. Tom Burns, of Two Harbors was fortunate to figure out the scam before he was completely taken in. He was called recently by two men attempting to sell him a service he didn’t need..
“(The scammer) called and told me that he was an employee of Microsoft and they were contacting customers,” said Burns, who was also told that there were over 60 people in the area who had experienced trouble with their computers.
“He wanted to check my computer and if I had (a virus), he could fix it for me,” reported Burns. The scammers then told Burns that the virus would make the computer shut down, rendering it useless. Burns said he was concerned by what the callers were saying.
“I heard that and thought, ‘Oh my goodness, here we go,’” he said. “ The bait was on the hook and I jumped right away.”
Burns said he was on the phone for forty minutes before he realized that it didn’t add up. Before that point, however, he said he was transferred to someone identified as the head technical specialist. The specialist got into Burns’ computer from another location, showing him pages that supposedly had viruses. Burns became suspicious.
“I said, ‘I find that really difficult to believe because I had the computer to the repair shop within the past week.’ They blew that off,” Burns recalled. At that point Burn’s said the callers made their sales pitch: For $99.93, they would take control of his computer for three days and get rid of the virus. Realizing he had important information on his computer, Burns knew he had made a terrible mistake allowing the callers access to his files, but the callers had been persuasive and persistent.
“I was on the phone with them for over an hour and they weren’t going to let me off,” Burns said. “They were absolutely insistent that I buy this product that, in reality, I didn’t need.”
After finally getting off the phone, Burns brought his computer to JAW’s Computers to have it checked out. Luckily, the scammers hadn’t taken any personal data, though they could have if Burn’s had allowed them access to his computer for the three days.
To keep your passwords and personal data safe, Melenich has some advice: “Don’t let them take over your computer,” he said.
If you have had a similar experience and are concerned about your computer, JAW’s Computers is located at 629 Seventh Street in Two Harbors. The phone number is (218) 834-5297.