Bamboozled October 26, 2017: Tech support scam strikes again

Burt Schlosberg, 83, said he was killing time before the start of last week’s Giants game.

The Hamilton resident was surfing the web on his laptop when he suddenly heard the sound of warning buzzers.

Then voice came from the computer, telling him his machine was infected.

For help, he should call the number on the screen: (888) 556-4559.

He said he tried to shut down his computer, but he couldn’t.

Schlosberg said he called the number and was connected to a technician who said he worked for Microsoft.

The tech said he could fix the problem.

“I asked if there would be a charge for his services, and he said the service was free,” Schlosberg said. “Based on that assurance, I allowed him to gain remote access.”

While the tech got onto Schlosberg’s machine and looked around, the tech described a host of problems with the machine and explained how he could fix them, Schlosberg said.

Next, the tech went in for the sell.

“He typed a list of the charges I would incur for all the repairs plus the purchase of better protection if I were to go to a Microsoft store. Over $1,000,” he said.

Instead, the tech offered a $99 fee for the problems he’d already fixed, and he recommended Schlosberg buy a protection service.

Burt Schlosberg at his home in Hamilton. He was targeted by a tech support scam.

Schlosberg didn’t bite.

When Schlosberg refused, the tech asked Schlosberg to write down his name — A.J. Williams — and the phone number just in case he had any other problems.

The man who called himself Williams shut down the computer from his end, and the call ended.

“After waiting a minute, I tried to restart it, but a message popped up saying a password was required to restart,” Schlosberg said. “I don’t blow my cool very easily, but I was furious.”

He decided to watch the football game and consider his options.

The Giants got romped. Schlosberg almost did, too.

When the game ended, his computer wouldn’t restart.

He decided to call the number again, and he asked for a supervisor.

Schlosberg said the supervisor, who called himself Dexter White, said he worked for Microsoft. So Schlosberg asked why the receptionist didn’t use the company name when she answered the phone. After some hesitation, the rep said the company worked for Microsoft accounts and for others, too, Schlosberg said.

“After I told him my tale of woe, Dexter agreed that the tech’s conduct was unprofessional, and said he would fire him that day,” Schlosberg said. “He gave me the code number to free up the computer, and after apologizing, tried to sell me all over again.”

Dexter said it might take a few weeks or a few months, but the problem would surely happen again, Schlosberg said. He asked for permission to call Schlosberg again in a few days.

Schlosberg said yes, but he doesn’t intend to take the call.

“I consider myself very fortunate that at age 83, I still have all my mental faculties,” Schlosberg said. “Many people my age and younger are probably being Bamboozled every day by computer thieves such as these.”

Schlosberg’s experience is pretty typical of tech support scams. The fake technician convinces you to grant access to your computer, and that’s when things really go wrong.

Burt Schlosberg was almost the victim of a tech support scam.

It’s very possible the first tech installed programs that will cause trouble in the days or weeks to come. The machine might lock again, or the con artists could track his online movements, hoping to capture banking or online shopping information, and more.

And given that the tech guys didn’t insist on a payment before unlocking the machine, we think there’s more coming. The call with Dexter was probably an attempt to gain Schlosberg’s trust.

That way, they hope, Schlosberg would call them again when a problem arises.

And that’s when they will go in for the real hard sell, insisting on a credit card number or even untraceable gift card numbers before unlocking the computer.

The telephone number Schlosberg called appears in several online scam reports with a similar modus operandi.

Some posters said they paid as much as $400 for their machines to be unlocked.

Still other posters said they received calls from the same number, reporting the consumer had won millions of dollars.

The lesson?

If you’re online and get a pop-up window telling you to call a tech support number, don’t do it. Immediately try to shut the browser. If that doesn’t work, restart your computer.

If someone calls you and claims to be from Microsoft or any other company, don’t believe it. Don’t give them any information, and certainly don’t give them remote access to your machine.

If you’ve given someone access to your computer, change all your passwords. Then make sure you have up-to-date virus software and run it regularly.

To call the real Microsoft, dial (800) 642-7676.

Schlosberg removed the remote access program and ran his anti-virus software, and his computer came up clean. We hope it is.

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