Hack Threat! Warning Signs and a Close ‘Call’

“If you spend more on coffee than on IT security, you will be hacked. What’s more, you deserve to be hacked” 
― Richard Clarke

No one wants to be hacked, but there are scums out there who enjoy creating internet or identity mayhem for all of us. Perhaps there is a special Hell for those that create these problems.

I am in hack-threat recovery. I was working on a client project and completing some online banking tasks when my computer locked up and a screen opened from ‘Microsoft’. It mentioned my computer had just been exposed to a serious virus and I needed to act fast (call their customer service number) before my identity, files, and related devices were affected.

At that moment, I wasn’t panicked. I was protected and I had an excellent computer consultant on my team (Kevin Scott of Visionary IT even sent an email updating the latest threats the previous week!) I called Kevin and left a message, but time was ticking. Fear was building. I couldn’t do anything with my computer and the wise choice would have been to shut down–which I should have done.

I can hear you gasping. I still shudder at my actions, too, but I was suddenly shoved into an unknown world without immediate support. Here’s what happened:

A friendly voice greeted me on the other side, asking me what the issue was. His name was ‘Simon’ and he had a charming thick accent. I could hear an unidentifiable foreign language in the background…not like the typical call centers many of us have experienced. WARNING 1.

WARNING 2: he repeatedly asked for screen-sharing access. He insisted it was necessary to identify the problem. When I started questioning him, he mentioned it was obvious my computer needed a ‘tune-up’ much like our vehicles. WARNING 3.

Simon then proceeded to tell me these things happen to good people and that I shouldn’t blame myself. He continued to babble, not allowing me to explain the situation further. WARNING 4.

As Simon continued to insist that this particular virus was highly dangerous, I asked him to wait while I called my IT specialist. He calmly assured me that my IT guy would agree, meanwhile trying to coax me into purchasing a new firewall. He then proceeded to tell me that they work with a very reputable company, called Agape (which he pronounced ah-gop-ay), meaning ‘Jesus loves you’ in Hindu. WARNING 5.

I ended the conversation by saying I won’t make a move without my computer consultant’s knowledge and advice. Simon continued to urge me to act now because this virus infects all devices quickly. I hung up. The entire conversation was just over 2 minutes long.

Moments later, Kevin called me and reassured me that all was well. Simon and his team were scammers who wanted access to my computer in order to hack and steal anything they could access. Kevin then listed several truths about these threats:

  • Microsoft does not respond in this manner regarding your computer. If there is an issue, they send MAILED LETTERS, not emails because of the likelihood of email spamming.
  • Your computer will alert you to threats, not Microsoft—that’s why you have antivirus, antispam, firewalls, and malware alerts installed. If you don’t have them, get them NOW!!
  • Scammers rely on fear, urgency, and ignorance to take advantage of us. You don’t have to be an IT expert to avoid these threats, but you do need to know what precautions to take, which includes the programs listed above.

Other warning signs:

  • questionable links
  • unusual requests
  • things you don’t recognize
  • strange requests or comments from your connections
  • an attempt on their behalf to acquire any type of passwords or access to your computer

While much of this may be basic know-how, I’ve learned a tough lesson to share with you. Please share with everyone but most importantly, protect yourself! Redundancy is better than ignorance.

Kristen

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