A number of city residents are receiving phone calls from what has been identified as the largest scam currently being perpetrated in Canada.
And one local woman admits to falling for the computer virus scam.
“If it can happen to me, it can happy to anybody,” said the woman, who asked not to be publicly identified. “I know better than that. That’s the scary part. There are probably people out there who don’t know as much about computers.”
The woman fell victim to the scam this week, when a caller pretending to be a Microsoft employee offered to help rid her computer of malicious software. By the end of the long conversation, she had granted access to her computer and handed over her credit card number for a $160 service warranty.
“They were in my computer for an hour- and-a-half. I allowed it,” she said. “I hung up and thought ‘what did I just do?’”
Immediately after hanging up, the woman realized she had been scammed. She has since taken her computer in for legitimate servicing, moved all of her bank accounts and cancelled her credit cards. She has also reported the case to RCMP and the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre.
Even then, the callers didn’t give up. The woman received 21 calls from the scammers the following day.
According to the fraud centre, this and similar scams now account for 70-80 per cent of all scam complaints in Canada.
“As embarrassed as I am that this happened, I am telling everyone I know and asking them to tell everyone,” the woman said. “People have to be warned.”
In a typical scenario a caller claiming to work for Microsoft or another reputable software company will call and ask if your computer is running slowly or not working properly. They will then offer to repair the computer online, which can involve either you installing software or the caller gaining remote control of your computer. Payment will then be collected by credit card for the software or a warranty package, according to a press release from the CAFC.
“If a scammer is able to log on to your computer, then he has access to all the personal information you have stored there, including your banking information,” said RCMP Staff Sgt. Paul Proulx of the CAFC.
“If you’re really worried about viruses on your computer, be pro-active and use anti-virus software that you’ve acquired from reputable sources, and keep it up to date. If someone calls you out of the blue offering to provide this kind of help, its probably a scam.
“Remember, its not rude to hang up on someone who’s trying to steal your money and information.”