Friday, July 31, 2009

Support on Click: if it walks like a scam and talks like a scam...

A couple nights ago, I got one of those annoying telemarketing calls from a guy claiming to be from a company called Support On Click offering to "check out your computer and fix the problems you are having if you would just go boot up your computer and click the start key..." The Indian accent, cold call and strange area code didn't add up.

Being impatient to finish dinner and figure out what this was about, but also curious about something so clearly BS, I interrupted immediately: "Before I do that, what exactly are you asking me to do?" He explained that he could remotely access my computer to "fix any problems and make sure it's all updated with the latest software. You just need to go to your control panel to arrange the remote access settings."

Riiight. I'll get right on that as soon as I put my bank PIN, credit card numbers and all my online passwords on business cards and hand them out to passers by, preferably ones exiting any local criminal justice facility and looking kind of shady.

I let him go on for a bit, frankly amazed at the brazeness, and finally just asked, "Do you think people are really that stupid? Do you actually get people to give you, some random caller, remote access to their computer? Even if I WAS having problems with my computer, I'd contact my ISP or computer manufacturer, not let some random person tinker with it over the phone."

He started to sputter, "No, no, we are Microsoft-approved, better than the manufacturer..." Yeah, and I can fix a broken carburator with a butter knife, some baling wire, a tube of super glue and a stick of chewing gum.

Bottom line? It's a scam preying on folks who aren't great with computers. Here's a great write up from One girl’s technology world, a blog written by a tech savvy woman in Australia who checked the company out and a follow up police alert identifying it as a scam. There are a ton of message boards with entries about this scam and people who, unfortunately, didn't realize it wasn't legit until they'd paid money for what is likely just spyware put on their computer, possibly to find and send important personal information, like credit card numbers and passwords to these shady operators, wherever they actually are in the world.

Never give personal info to people who call you or send you e-mail. If a message claims to be from your bank or financial institution, get the info, then hang up and call the number listed on your bank statement or credit card directly. Never click links supposedly from your bank if it claims that you need to "log in through this special link and verify your login and password." Banks don't do that. Just call them directly, tell them what you've received or heard and ask if there's any issue with your account.

Here are two good articles on how to avoid this type of scam - known as phishing:
This one's from CNET the computer experts and this one's from the Federal Trade Commission. Happy safe surfing!

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