While most of us are busy worrying about computer viruses and hackers stealing credit card details over the internet, cybercriminals are now picking up the phone, posing as computer security engineers and convincing computer users they have a virus on their computer and need to hand over their details.

Cybercriminals behind the emerging form of internet scam have been targeting English-language markets worldwide and racking up credit card bills of $80 - $800 per victim.

The scam works by criminals posing as computer security engineers and calling people at home to tell them they are at risk of a computer security threat. The scammers tell their victims they are providing free security checks and add authenticity by claiming to represent legitimate companies like Microsoft and by using telephone directories to refer to their victims by name! 

Once they have tricked their victims into believing they have a problem and that the caller can help, the scammers run through a range of deception techniques designed to steal money.

The scam is so believable that 22% of computer users who had received a call were conned into downloading software, providing credit card information, making a purchase or giving the hackers remote access to their computer. 79% of those deceived by the callers suffered some kind of financial loss and 53% said they suffered subsequent problems with their computer.

Scareware, or fake anti-virus, is fake security software which pretends to find dangerous security threats - such as viruses - on your computer. The initial scan is free, but if you want to clean up the fraudulently-reported "threats", you need to pay. Microsoft said that the “most effective protection lies in consumer education to prevent people from becoming victims in the first place.”

        Be suspicious of unsolicited calls related to a security problem,
even if they claim to represent a respected company.

        Never provide personal information, such as credit card or bank details, to an unsolicited caller.

        Do not go to a website, type anything into a computer, install software or follow any other instruction from someone who calls out of the blue.

        Take the caller's information down and pass it to the authorities.

        Use up-to-date versions of Windows and application software.

        Make sure security updates are installed regularly.

        Use a strong password and change it regularly.

        Make sure the firewall is turned on and that antivirus software is installed and up to date.

Perhaps the only "cure" for this problem is to not answer the phone when the scammers call. To help with that, Telus and Shaw have provided several options to block these types of calls. Click here for more info.


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