Wednesday, 25 September 2019 20:46

A.G.'s office offers tips to avoid computer scams

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A.G.'s office offers tips to avoid computer scams William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Not even businesses are immune to potential scammers.

The Richmond Observer has recently received at least three calls from individuals claiming to work for AT&T, according to co-publisher Charlie Melvin.

The most recent call was made on Tuesday, where the person on the other end wanted to take control of the computer to show and update company “services.”

The caller asked what was on the screen and Melvin told him the desktop. 

When asked a second time what icons were on the screen, Melvin replied with, “Why does this matter? Why do you need to know that?”

The caller, who had a foreign accent, was difficult to understand and when Melvin asked him to clarify what the computer was connected with, he became irate and cursed at Melvin before hanging up.

Other individuals making similar calls could be heard in the background.

When Melvin tried to call the number back, it went to AT&T customer service and he informed the representative of the scam.

“... (W)e haven’t heard about this specific scam but that we get this general call a lot — companies saying they are Microsoft or others and trying to hack into the victim’s computer or device,” said Laura Brewer, spokesperson for the N.C. Attorney General’s office.

She offered several tips for readers on how to avoid falling victim to computer scammers:

  • Don’t assume the person who calls you is who they say they are. If someone calls and says they’re with a company you do business with (your internet provider, your bank, etc.), hang up and call them back on the number you have to confirm that it’s really them.
  • Protect your passwords. Don’t give your account password to anyone, even someone claiming to be from your Internet Service Provider. Your account could be hijacked, and you could wind up with unexpected charges on your bill.
  • Use Wifi wisely. Wireless Internet service is convenient and commonplace, but Wi Fi can also put your smartphone, laptop or tablet computer and its data at risk. Learn to connect safely.
  • Be careful about giving out your credit card number, phone number and home address online.
  • Don’t email sensitive information like credit card numbers, Social Security Numbers, or bank account information. Email is vulnerable to hackers. Information should only be submitted through secure websites (look for https:// and/or a “lock” icon in the browser bar). Navigate your own way to the secure site if possible, rather than clicking a link in an email – which could lead to a website designed to steal your information.
  • Remain anonymous in chat rooms so others can’t identify or email you directly. Use a nickname as your screen name.
  • Read privacy policies to understand how a website uses the personal information it collects.
  • Use privacy settings, but don’t rely on them. On social networking sites like Facebook, privacy settings can protect your information. But don’t put information or images online that you want to remain private.
  • Is that “friend” an actual friend? Think carefully before you agree to let people who you do not know personally become your friends online. If you decide to allow people you don’t know “IRL” (in real life) to become friends online, consider setting up a special group status that limits their access to your information and their ability to post comments. This is an especially important protection for young people who feel that they must accept every online invitation they receive.

These aren’t the only scam calls the RO office have received.

Earlier this month, The Richmond Observer received a call to the office phone from an automated “Officer Maria,” allegedly with the Social Security Administration, claiming that “your SSN” has been suspended and urging the answerer to press 1 to resolve the situation.

No telephone number was available on the Caller ID.

The following week, the Rockingham Police Department issued a warning to the public about Social Security scammers.

Brewer said on Sept. 10 that there had been 149 complaints of Social Security scams across the state since Jan. 1 — an increase from 109 on June 21.