Scams and scam artists have become commonplace in our society. And with ever-changing computer software, social media and the Internet, it is sadly becoming easier and easier for scam artists to do their dirty work and take some unsuspecting person for a ride.
Over the years we have written about and provided public warnings about crooks who have impersonated prominent citizens in our community looking for a quick buck.
There are the cold calls from fleecers claiming they are from reputable businesses urging you to give out personal information so you can win a prize — an exotic trip or a cushy prize package.
An anti-virus computer scam, which, according to the anti-fraud centre, has proliferated since March 2010, continues to be a growing concern. In fact, I know of several people who have been targeted right here on the Sunshine Coast.
To date, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) has received 15,763 complaints with 4,523 classified as victims having a total reported dollar loss of $1,022,826.22 (an average loss of $292.82 per victim).
This scheme involves so-called company representatives calling individuals and stating, for example, that it is Microsoft calling and that the called person’s computer is running slowly or has viruses. They offer to repair the computer over the Internet, which can involve the installation of software or the customers allowing the representatives remote access to their computer.
They also state that if this system upgrade isn’t done immediately, because it is an emergency situation, get ready to have your computer rendered useless. Well, nothing is an emergency situation for one, and second, your personal information is your personal information and is no one’s business but your own. You should never be bullied or intimidated to do anything — especially by someone you don’t know who is on the telephone calling you from who knows where.
But obviously, the scam is working, as some 15,000 people across the country have fallen victim to the ploys of the scam artists.
Payment for the software or repair service is handled via credit card with the charges being debited by banks in India, Germany, Latvia, Russia, Ukraine, Mauritius, United States, Panama, Korea, China, Philippines, Australia, Iceland and New Zealand.
Allowing a third party to download software or remotely access a computer carries inherent risks according to the CAFC. Malicious software could be installed to capture sensitive data such as online banking user names and passwords, bank account information, identity information, etc.
So how do you protect yourself from falling victim? Using some common sense is the best approach. If you get these types of calls, hang up and contact the CAFC (www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca) and report the incident. And in the case of other “great deal” scams, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.