Guard against computer crims


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That unsolicited offer to speed up your computer could be costly.

It starts with a call from, in this case, someone claiming to be a technical support specialist with a well-known computer or software group telling you that your computer is slow. Just about everyone's computer slows down from time to time.

The caller sounds as though he knows what he is talking about and tells you a virus afflicts your computer. He offers to speed it up for you in a flash. The accent is foreign, but we all know that nearly all call centres are now located offshore.


The reassuring voice says all you need to do is turn on your computer, or sit in front of it if it is already on, while he's talking. First he asks for your credit card number. It's a mere technicality, he says, because he is required under regulations to charge something for his services, but it will be only $5.

Feeling uneasy?

My friend who received this call a month or so ago felt uneasy and asked to speak to the caller's supervisor. After a minute or so another voice came on the line, reassuring her that all was OK. This voice reiterated the company name and gave an ABN number.

You can make one up on the spot. Quoting it while you are on the phone and on your slow computer means there is no way you can check then and there.

You're now back to the first voice who says: "Type this [either number or code] into your computer." You are told this enables the caller to put the antivirus software in to clean up your crawling system. The caller says he needs remote access.

He quickly says: "Oh look, I can see you have 16,135 viruses in there and they are breeding rapidly. Every minute you use the computer this virus will continue to grow. You really have to something about this alarming development, and quickly." Of course the number has been plucked out of the air, but it does sound suitably alarming.

Apparently, by typing in the code my friend gave the caller remote access to her computer to find the non-existent virus. She was strung along with sufficient technical jargon to give her a feeling he knew what he was doing.

Then he asked for more details about her credit card - he had to check her name on the card, the security code, expiry date. He asked to confirm her address, which alerted her that her identity could be stolen. At least she didn't give that information.

She was then told to shut down her computer and log on again after 20 minutes when the anti-virus software would have done its job. She watched the screen go black and thought, "What have I done?" The caller said he would phone back in just over 20 minutes to see the result.

At this point my friend's daughter called her. The daughter said: "Oh mum, it's a scam and everyone has heard about it."

My friend immediately called her bank and found the scamster had already drained it of $500 with small purchases so as not to raise any alarms. But because my friend divulged her credit card number to the caller, the bank won't compensate her. She was lucky she twigged quickly and her daughter called her at the right time.

In another hour or so a lot more money would have drained out of her account and she would have been liable for what was lost until the bank was notified of the card's suspected misuse. That could have been days later when she next used her card. The bank told her that her alert was one of dozens it had received over that weekend and the stories told were similar.

Now when my friend hears a foreign-sounding voice when she picks up the phone she hangs up.

A few days later she received a similar call from a computer tech person claiming to be from the same company. This time she gave the caller a serve in language she does not normally use.

The exercise cost my friend another $198 to get a legitimate IT specialist to clear the malware that had been installed, and remove third-party remote control software as well as defragmenting the hard drive.

NSW Fair Trading has received quite a few complaints about this scam, including from people who don't own a computer but got a call anyway. They were lucky in that they instantly knew they not only had a non-existent virus but didn't have a computer anyway. A spokesman for NSW Fair Trading said that for every consumer who is scam smart there is someone likely to be taken in who will lose their money, their identity and their confidence.


hang up when you get an unsolicited call from a "computer technician" wanting to help you clear your computer of non-existent viruses.


Go to your computer while you are talking to the caller and turn it on or enter any codes into the computer. Leave it turned off. If you want to check their credentials and ABN, do so in your own time. You can call them back if satisfied they are legit.


Report scams to the fair trading office in your state.


Under any circumstances supply your credit card details to anyone over the phone if they have called you and you are not sure who you are talking to.

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