Avoid tech support scams aimed at seniors

Courtesy Photo.

Since our lives are ruled by our computers and all of the personal and financial data that flows in and out of it, we’re right to be concerned about computer safety and guarding against a virus or spyware. But, don’t trust those pop-up ads that entice you to doubt your security.

One of the latest ways senior citizens are being scammed is through phony tech support pop-up ads that scare computer users into thinking their computer has a virus. Preying on security concerns, fraudsters trick victims into providing remote access to their computers, making them believe that the so-called “technical support” will plug gaps in security.

The ad often looks like it is coming from a legitimate technology company such as Microsoft, since the ad uses their logo. Although anyone can fall prey to this trick, senior citizens tend to be the most vulnerable in believing their computer is affected, which leads them to provide credit card information to the hacker or allow what they think is anti-virus software to be placed onto their computer but is really spyware.

This shakedown can go down a number of paths, but they each end with significant financial loss. For example:

The scammer strikes every so often making you think your computer has a new virus that you must pay to have removed each time.

The credit card or banking information you provided to stop the virus may have unauthorized use.

Your computer may get infected with spyware allowing access to personal and financial records.

Here’s what you need to know when dealing with computer safety and tech support:

Do not call phone numbers on pop-up ads about computer security.

The best way to keep your computer safe from viruses is to update its security software.

If you have concerns about the security settings or viruses on your computer, take it to a reputable brick and mortar computer repair business.

If you get a pop-up ad that takes up your screen, has no way to close and suggests you click on it as the only way to rid the screen of the intrusion, take the computer to a professional repair shop.

Don’t click, call or answer if:

You get a phone call you didn’t expect saying there is a problem with your computer.

You get a message a Russian spammer attacked your system and you need to pay to protect your banking information.

If you are asked to make payment in Bitcoin or wire transfer, it is a scam.

Just last year, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 142,000 complaints involving the computer scams.

The DA’s Consumer Protection Unit is comprised of Deputy District Attorneys, Investigators and Paralegals dedicated to protecting consumers and law abiding businesses from fraudulent or unfair business practices. To report a consumer complaint, you can call (619) 531-3507 or email consumer@sdcda.org.

As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and you, the community. One way I have been doing that is through this monthly column, where I provide consumer tips on public safety matters.

About Summer Stephan

District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated nearly 30 years to serving justice and victims of crime as prosecutor.

She is a leader in fighting sex crimes and human trafficking and in creating smart and fair criminal justice solutions and restorative justice practices.

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