When you work from home or spend a lot of time there you will always be more susceptible to phone scams – the 21st century way to steal your cash from under your nose. There are several common scams around at the moment, all pretty sophisticated and initially appear above board.
One doing the rounds at the moment consists of your phone, an Indian call centre and your computer. Your phone will ring, you will answer to an Indian caller who addresses you by name and states your address. They will then go on to say they are employed by Microsoft and that they have been told by your ISP that your computer has a nasty virus on it.
It all sounds very genuine and many assume this is simply a new, pretty impressive service from the computer giant bosses, all with customer service and computer security at the forefront of their conscientious minds. The caller knows your address and your full name so it must be legit – right? Wrong. It is thought these scammers simply look through the phone book to find your details, however what comes next is the impressive bit. The caller will direct you to your computer and ask you to open up what you think is a program on your computer.
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The program displays a scary looking list of problems your computer has and the caller will explain to you that if you don’t follow their instructions and fix it now, the computer will become useless, broken, unusable etc etc. Many people at this point are very thankful to the phone operator – to think what would have happened if they hadn’t been alerted to the situation…
You are then directed to an Internet site which can fix all the problems – for a fee. Many pay and that is the end of that. However, the issue is that these helpful Microsoft employees which have just saved you from grave technological difficulties are in fact, not employees of Microsoft. There is nothing wrong with your computer and you have just handed over your hard earned cash for some security program you never really needed. But that’s not all. The worst bit is that you have just given the scammer full access to every bit of data on your computer. A free pass, if you will, to your documents, passwords and everything else you really wouldn’t want a stranger to see.
Another common scam is in the guise of BT, calling to recover debts you owe them. Even if you are sure you are up to date with payments they will insist you owe money and if you don’t pay then and there, they will disconnect your phone. Now many people at this point would assume it was nothing more than a scam, tell the caller this and hang up. However, these scam artists have got a nifty trick up their sleeve. They tell you they can prove they are from BT and are legitimate by temporarily cutting off your phone line, something you would assume only a true BT employee could do.
Sure enough, after they hang up and you try to ring out, your phone is dead. No dial tone, nothing. This is usually enough to convince many people the call is genuine. However. No sophisticated software is required for this little trick as they simply don’t put the phone down and end the call. This blocks the line and your end appears to be dead. The scammer then rings back as promised and worried victims, many of them elderly or vulnerable, hurriedly pay the ‘outstanding amount’ so their phone isn’t cut off for good.
There are also several scams out there involving banks and credit cards where the main aim is to try and convince victims to divulge some, if not all of their bank and credit card details. They do this by ringing you up, targeting you using phone directories and telling you they are from a certain bank. For all the people who say they have not got an account with that bank and hang up there will be hundreds who do have an account and believe the call is legit.
They will then say they can raise your overdraft/credit limit or offer you an equally enticing deal, which lets face it, in these hard times is enough to convince many cash strapped people to continue with the call. They will then ask for your details to go through with the account changes and before you know it you have given all your details over and never hear from them again.
If you receive a call which sounds like any of the above, hang up. Do not give any details over the phone, even if the caller appears to know a lot about you. Then contact your Internet service provider immediately to let them know. It is also best to be ex- directory so that these scammers can’t call you in the first place. If the call supposedly was from your bank or credit card company tell the scammer you are busy and can they ring you back another time. In the meantime call your bank, ask them to confirm it was them and if it wasn’t alert them to the scam.
All companies which identities are taken by these scammers will also investigate each complaint because they do not want to be implicated in any of these scams. However, this takes time so it is important you never hand over or discuss any info over the phone, however much they assure they are. It is also a good idea to report any experience to the Police however this will not guarantee you will get any money back, taken as a result of handing your details over to a scammer so be vigilant and never hand details over.
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