Police have been warning against door-to-door scammers all summer long, but now a phone scheme is starting to pop up, and it could have big consequences if you don’t catch on in time.
A Bonneville County woman was still shaken on Wednesday after her phone rang less than 24 hours before.
“I could’ve lost everything,” said Cathy Heath. “I could’ve lost our life savings. I could’ve lost our retirement.”
Heath shuddered to think what could have happened had an encounter with a computer scam gone too far.
She uses cyberspace for the basics, like Facebook and email, but wasn’t sure what to do when the phone rang on Tuesday afternoon and a man claiming he was from “Windows Operating Systems” said her red laptop had a major virus.
“(It was a) man on the other line with a heavy Indian accent,” said Heath.
Heath said the man had her click through programs, deeper and deeper into the machine, while relaying the information back to him.
“Click start, go to computer, click on computer,” said Heath, recounting the experience.
After 10 minutes, she said she felt uncomfortable.
“This little ‘naggy’ voice internally kept saying, ‘Cathy,'” said Heath.
Heath called her son, who programs computers in Silicon Valley, and then the Best Buy Geek Squad who said it wasn’t a dangerous virus. It was a dangerous scam.
“(The) worst thing in that scenario is they’ll get all your information: name, address, social security, sometimes credit card information that’s on there,” said James Nieuwenhuis, who’s a member of the Best Buy Geek Squad.
Reports of similar fraud started in the UK around 2008 and have since popped up in the U.S. On Microsoft’s Safety and Security Center webpage, a list of tips to avoid such schemes says: “Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls to help fix your computer.”
“If you haven’t contacted them, don’t expect them to contact you,” said Nieuwenhuis.
It’s advice Heath is taking to heart and hoping to share with others.
“It just scared me so much,” said Heath.
The Geek Squad said unsolicited phone calls are the biggest red flag. They also said to be careful about clicking on pop-ups and to invest in good antivirus software.
KLEW out of Lewiston reported the same scam just two days ago.