UNION COUNTY — The public is being warned to take precautions against a computer scam after a Union woman lost nearly $3,700 to one earlier this month.
In a statement released this afternoon, Union County Sheriff David Taylor said that on Tuesday (Aug. 15) a woman notified his office that she was the victim of a scam. Taylor said that the victim told an investigator that she was on her computer on Sunday, June 30 when a screen alert came up on her screen. He said that a short time later, the victim received a call from a person who claimed they were from Microsoft and that she would need to purchase a package for assistance in fixing the issue.
Taylor said the person claiming to be from Microsoft, who he said spoke with a foreign accent, offered the victim a package deal for lifetime assistance for both computers for a one time deal of $1,695. He said the victim agreed to purchase the one time deal plan and used her and her husband’s credit card to make the payment.
However, Taylor said that after much confusion and supposedly some installation problem, the software could not be downloaded. Taylor said the scammer said he would put the money back in the victim’s account and that she needed to go purchase 20 I-Tunes cards to pay for the software program. He said the I-Tunes cards were $100 each and were submitted by webcam to the scammer using the victim’s computer. The money never returned to the victim’s account and Taylor said the victim lost a total of $3,695 to the scam.
According to Taylor, the scam used to steal from the victim is not a new one, but is an old phising scam that first appeared as many as four years ago.
“This scam has been around since 2013-2014,” Taylor said. “This victim fell to an old phishing scam that comes back in a big way. Too often, worried consumers believe, and end up paying the price. In 2014, Microsoft had heard from over 175,000 customers complaining about tech support scams.
“The con artists often demand payment to ‘fix’ the computers they’ve hacked,” he said. “At that point, they got your credit card information, expiration date and the CC Code on your card. They also have your first and last name, home address and other vital information. If you bank on-line you also have compromised that information to the con artist.”
The press release also includes the following steps a person can take to protect themselves from a computer scam:
1. Never call a pop-up number that comes up on your computer.
2. Never give a stranger access to your computer.
3. Make sure to keep anti-virus programs and operating system software up to date at all times.
4. If you have such a pop-up on your computer, take it to a computer repair person to have them check your computer.
5. No major tech support company (Microsoft, Apple, Etc.) will ask for payment by I-Tunes or Green Dot Cards.
“We have been offering crime prevention methods to churches, businesses and civic organizations for years,” Taylor said. “But we usually don’t get asked for a presentation until someone has become a victim.”
Anyone who thinks they may have been the target and/or victim of a computer scam is urged to contact the Union County Sheriff’s Office at 864-426-1612.