By TERI PIZZA
The ransom virus is a scam (not a virus), skillfully perpetrated by tricky computer
technicians. It can cost its victims thousands of dollars. Here’s how I was caught:
THE BAIT: A white warning box popped-up
on my PC. The message read, “Microsoft Defender
has detected a virus, Trojan or worm. For assistance,
call 800 ….”
THE CATCH: “Defender Security” answered
my call. To help me, he needed access to my PC.
Skeptical, I asked questions and after assurances,
granted access. (After all, hadn’t I had called them?)
As he was scanning my computer, my “security
agent” continued talking, setting another hook —
this time about the PC’s lack of firewall protection.
Controlling my cursor, he pointed to items in my
computer “where hackers had gained access to the IP
address.” About an hour into the call, he offered to
“de-bug” the computer and provide tech support for
a one-time fee of $300. I agreed.
THE HAUL: After another hour of “cleaning”
and talking about firewalls, I was referred to a “well established,
reputable firm that could help find the
exact type of firewall for [my] system,” costing over
$1,000. Weary, I was ready to proceed when greed
got the best of them. As it turned out, it was the credit
card fraud department’s call and their questions that
made me think about what was happening. I declined
the charge and canceled my card but the nightmare
wasn’t over. Although I saved money by not
purchasing anything, they still held my data hostage
which crashed my PC. I received 59 “defender”
calls before I blocked their number. I had to pay for
legitimate security software. I had to have my PC
restored. I lost some data forever.
Now I know that during the three hours it took my defenders to
“clean my PC,” they were removing my data — to hold it for ransom.
THE TAKE AWAY:
Don’t give anyone access to your computer over
the phone—ever. If you have a problem, take it to a
reliable computer technician.
If you get the “warning box,” shut your system
down and unplug it from the wall. Wait overnight
before rebooting. (That’s how my husband wiggled
off the hook when the warning appeared on his
laptop days later!)
Teri Pizza is an author and speaker.
Feel free to contact her through her website at teripizza.com.