Archive for Sunday, April 15, 2012

Scam in Lawrence area involves so-called tech-support call about computer viruses

April 15, 2012


The phone call came out of the blue.

But Lawrence resident Martha Town, 69, was ready to listen because she had been having problems with her computer at home. The caller claimed to be a technical support analyst either for Microsoft or Cisco Systems Inc. — she can’t remember which one — and he later turned her over to a woman he said was his female supervisor.

Over the phone they had walked her through several steps on her computer before telling Town that her computer’s software license had expired. She was eventually taken to another screen the woman claimed would examine her computer for viruses.

Then a screen popped up that asked her to pay $107.

“I said, ‘oh no, I’m not paying anything until I have someone else check this out,’” said Town, who retired in 1998 as superintendent of the Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City, Kan.

She eventually terminated the call without giving a credit card or bank account number. Days later, after having conversations with her nephew, who works with computers, and a tech at Geeks on Wheels in Lawrence, who fixed her computer for much less than $107, Town learned she avoided a likely scam that others in Lawrence were not as fortunate to avoid.

Jennifer Ludlow, the Geeks on Wheels coordinator, said she’d noticed the support company had received about 20 calls in the past six weeks about similar circumstances. In recent years, she’s heard of a similar scam involving pop-up windows that won’t go away, but the so-called tech-support phone call seems to be a new wrinkle, at least in the Lawrence area. The scam is likely an effort to get access to someone’s credit card or bank account information, which is never advised unless you can verify that it’s a reputable and secure website, she said. Secure websites start with the URL “https” instead of just “http.”

Some victims initially trust the callers enough to give them remote access to their computers, but the callers can become more aggressive, Ludlow said.

Town said she worried that older people could be more susceptible to the scam, but Ludlow said she’s heard from people across the age spectrum — from college students on up.

“This normal, rational person sounds really scared by this call. (The callers are) doing a good job in trying to intimidate or bully people or do things they normally wouldn’t do,” said Ludlow, who is also business services coordinator for Knology of Kansas, which owns Geeks on Wheels.

Microsoft, for example, on its website warns users about giving out any information in unsolicited phone calls and instead advises people to take down the caller’s information and report it to local authorities if possible.

“You will never receive a legitimate call from Microsoft or our partners to charge you for computer fixes,” the website said.

Ludlow said many of these types of scams are conducted internationally, so it can be difficult to catch perpetrators. She advised that if people did give out bank or credit card information or if they noticed any suspicious charges, they should notify their bank immediately to get their card number changed.

Town said she never purchases anything unless she absolutely knows who she’s dealing with.

“We just have to use what’s at our disposal,” she said, “which is our heads and common sense sometimes. Just check it out."


Tim Quest 6 years ago

Fitting for a Knology reference to pop up in an article about overpriced scams...

KUinAussie 6 years ago

you all are so behind the curve, we were getting these calls every four or five days. the calls we got, originated from india. which makes it difficult to call block.

the article fell short in explaining these calls, as well they ask you to go to a website to scan their pc. your comp may be fine before you visit the site, but when you click on it, then your computer IS infected. but for the low cost of plus dollars they can fix it. of course they can fix it, they designed the virus.

you may have to resort to obscene vulgarities and demand a supervisor. they will generally hang up.

Dave Greenbaum 6 years ago

Our clients first reported these calls to us in September ( and I blogged again about the increase yesterday.

I also agree the risk is in the going to a website they recommend and giving them control of the computer. Once a virus or remote control program is installed on the computer, anything the person does on the computer can be monitored.

LadyJ 6 years ago

Geeks fixed the problem for less than $107, only if you're a relative.

muddfoot55 6 years ago

These folks called me atleast once a week for 5-6 weeks. I hung up on them at first but the last time I challenged their knowledge of what was going on with my system and I told them I didn't believe Micro soft monitored and called people. I haven't heard from them since.

audvisartist 6 years ago

Microsoft you say? Windows you say? Then why am I sitting in front of a computer running Linux?

gsxr600 6 years ago

No operating system is immune to viruses. Windows gets hit more because it is the standard for computers around the world. More users = more opportunities to exploit dummies.

Get off your Linux elitest podium. Inb4 I have an apple, can't get viruses bro.

cozborn 6 years ago

Man I have been saying that to people for years, they usually just shut their Imac, adjust their ascot, pick up their starbucks, and walk away. I just cant understand why they would pay so much just to write a screenplay....

SeaFox 6 years ago

I think his point was that an attempt at scamming him would end up with egg on the face of the perpetrator when they pretend to be a support person monitoring a PC that doesn't run their operating system.


kuhusker 6 years ago

Nice ad for Geeks on Wheels, masquerading as objective journalism.

There is a real news story (these scam calls) but rather then use as a source any of the dozen independent computer companies in town, the story just by random happenstance shills for the company that up until very recently was owned by the LJW.

All a coincidence, I am sure.

Dave Greenbaum 6 years ago

They are a major advertiser still so it's logical to interview people who are both former employees as well as pay money for advertising space. They already know and work for these people so there was no need to go outside company resources to get the story

DennisAnderson 6 years ago

That is not the case, Dave. The company provides service to the majority of the community and readers would likely be interested in knowing how this concern affects their Internet provider. Dennis Anderson Managing Editor

Dave Greenbaum 6 years ago

Dennis. Your response is confusing. Which is not the case? They are a major advertiser? Former employees? Both are facts which I can provide sources for.

The story didn't mention "how this concern affects their Internet provider". The focus is the end user, not the provider and is provider independent.

I'm not sure what you mean by "provides service to the majority". If it's coverage area, I believe AT&T provides greater coverage. If you are referring to market share, I understand Knology no longer has a majority market share.

Regardless, can you provide a source and date to backup that "majority" statement as well as clarify it

Thanks for responding and explaining the story a bit better.

repete66211 6 years ago

The internet was invented to fool grandparents.

Bob Reinsch 6 years ago

I received the call some time ago. I work in the Microsoft space, so I started asking them some questions, and it wasn't long before I knew it was a scam and alerted my friends/business associates. Use common sense, people. If you didn't initiate the call, Microsoft isn't going to call you. If they insist it was from your computer, ask them the IP Address, the MAC address, and the name of the computer (hostname). They'll stumble over themselves. Ask them their Microsoft Partner ID #. Turn this back on them. Keep them on the phone. The longer you tie them up asking them questions about what they should already know, the more you help your fellow man. Make them waste their time. The more time you spend making them jump through hoops until they give up, the less time they have to call your neighbor. Put them on hold if you can, but NEVER let these clowns intimidate you or control the conversation.

TheEleventhStephanie 6 years ago

"female supervisor" really? Supervisor wouldn't have sufficed? Ya'll write real good, Jay-Dub.

booyalab 6 years ago

Considering she wasn't even his supervisor, does it matter?

Armen Kurdian 6 years ago

Should have asked her what she was...or maybe WASN'T wearing. Then tell her about littering and how they all moved away from me on the Group W bench there....

Terry Sexton 6 years ago

I like the air horn idea - or a gym whistle.

Adrienne Sanders 6 years ago

People, even if you don't know anything about computers, apply some logic- not microsoft, not any other company is magically monitoring your computer for problems and also somehow magically has your phone number.

Never giving money to anybody who calls out of the blue is also a good rule of thumb.

Dave Greenbaum 6 years ago

If it's your ISP calling such as Knology or AT&T, people might be more willing to fall for the scam especially if the caller ID is spoofed. When in doubt call your ISP directly and ask them about the call.

jhawkfan05 6 years ago


MarcoPogo 6 years ago

So what you're saying is that we should have them help us with our computers?

CheyenneWay 6 years ago

They called and I told them that my computer just had a whole new computer fall out of it and now all my cats and dogs are chasing little tiny computer viruses. Then I told them that indeed, turkeys can fly for short distances.

Shane Garrett 6 years ago

I like the comment about asking multiple questions. I got that call and all he would say is that it was the computer operating on windows. Well, I said which computer, the one at work, or the one at home. He could not tell me. So yeah, it was a scam. Both have the highest level of real time virus protection. That doesn't mean that they can't get one. But do tie up their time if possible.

KUinAussie 6 years ago

untrue. but that said, no program provider is monitoring your pc.

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