Warnings are out there, but people keep falling for scams

If your computer displays a message like this one, your best bet is not to call that number.

If your computer displays a message like this one, your best bet is not to call that number.

KINGMAN - Another wave of would-be scammers appears to have targeted Mohave County.

Kingman resident Ann Bouwense contacted the Kingman Daily Miner recently and described how a man with an Indian accent called her in late March claiming his company needed to remove a computer worm.

Bouwense says the man claimed to be a third-party Microsoft representative and in order to remove a computer worm called Koobface, Techhart representatives needed her Microsoft login and password to access her Gateway laptop.

"I wasn't feeling well that day and I let my guard down. I gave him access to my computer," she said. "He said it (the worm) was in my software and they had to get rid of it."

Worm or Virus

A worm is not the same as a virus. According to the Kaspersky Internet security website, viruses require an active host program or an already-infected and active operating system in order for viruses to run, cause damage and infect other executable files or documents, while worms are stand-alone malicious programs that can self-replicate and propagate via computer networks, without human help.

Verifying the legitimacy of Internet services can be challenging.

Watchdog websites warn that the some companies use a separate service to hide their identities.

Some companies do this to avoid spam emails, but that many Internet scam artists use the same method to hide their identity and location.

"The representative started naming off services," Bouwense said. "Five hundred dollars one-time charge for one year protection. $2,000 for five years. They needed to put it on my credit card. I don't have credit cards but I have a checking account and gave them those numbers.

"They were very adamant about knowing what devices I had in my house that were hooked up to Internet/Wi-Fi."

The company changed or removed previously installed virus protection and firewall software.

Realization

After realizing that the service was probably a scam, Bouwense turned off her computer, disconnected the Wi-Fi modem, changed her bank account numbers and took her computer to a repair store hoping to clean up the damage.

Bouwense kept getting calls from the same company a week after the initial incident but refused to answer them.

"They have tried to call me at least six times today," she said. "They did this while I was on the phone with them before I shut my computer down. You actually have to give them access to your computer."

Bits-N-Bytes Computer Center manager Andy Raynor says the Kingman company gets customers with the same issue about four to five times a week.

"We get people saying Microsoft called them," he said. "It's usually companies pretending to be Microsoft. They'll call and say they need access to your machine. They infect your computer and then say you've got to pay them. Once you allow them in, they have command access to the machine and you're done."

Don't call pop-up numbers

Both Raynor and Microsoft representatives said the company will never call you. They also warned not to call a phone number from a pop-up advertisement that appears on your computer.

"If they say they're from Microsoft, they're probably lying," Raynor warned. "Make sure you're clicking on the official link."

That link is: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us

Bouwense had malicious software removed from her computer and has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on instructions from the Arizona Attorney General's office.

"I wanted to get the word out and let people know," she said.