Iowans are being warned about a new crop of scams where the con artists claim to be federal agents. Jim Hegarty, with the Better Business Bureau, says the victims find their computer screens frozen with a message that appears to be from the FBI claiming the consumer has done something illegal and the computer was electronically seized.
“In some cases, they actually use the camera on your computer to take a picture of you,” Hegarty says. “Sometimes, people have reported to us that they’re locked screen includes a photo of themselves.” Don’t click on the links provided, he says. Instead, take your computer to a reputable tech support center and have it checked out.
Another incarnation of the scam tries to convince people they’ve been hit with a harmful computer bug. “They’ve either received a phone call or a pop-up on their computer from a supposed IT firm letting them know there’s been viruses detected on their computer, that it’s very important that they be removed,” Hegarty says, “and, of course, they offer their services if the consumers will give them access remotely.”
If you allow someone unscrupulous to poke around in your computer, he says you could be opening yourself to all kinds of trouble, including identity theft. “Lord knows what sort of malware or bots have been installed on their computers that might be operating in the background, looking for sensitive data,” Hegarty says. “On top of that, they’ve charged them for these theoretical services to remove these viruses.”
Never allow a stranger access to your computer, he says, and if you do, change all passwords, email and online banking information right away. Hegarty says several people have lost hundreds of dollars to these scammers. The BBB investigations show the crooks use several business names and websites to hide their locations.
Phone numbers listed on their websites were changed or disconnected. Learn more at the Iowa Better Business Bureau website at: www.iowa.bbb.org