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Phone scam seeks remote computer access

Caller asks for credit card, other personal information
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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On a recent evening just before dinner, Jana Domondon got a strange phone call at her home in Newcastle: Somehow she had a serious virus on her computer.

The caller said he was from Microsoft and that it was vital Domondon race to her computer immediately because he had somehow detected that it had a virus.

Domondon sensed that something was amiss almost as soon as the caller said "Microsoft," so she asked him to give her an employee identification number or speak to a manager.

"He rattled off some numbers and I thought ‘This is not sounding right, it sounds weird,' because I'm not paying for any of these services for him to fix this computer, none of that," Domondon said.

She also noted that the caller's urgency in trying to get her to go to her computer right away. Within a few minutes, Domondon knew she had been called into a scam.

"I said ‘This doesn't sound right, this sounds like a scam' and right as I was saying ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself,' clunk, he hung up," she said.

James Hennig, lead technician with Dr. PC in Auburn, said Domondon was smart not to buy into the caller who said he was from Microsoft. Hennig has heard from people in the area who have received similar calls from someone claiming to be from Microsoft, but in reality the call is a scam.

Hennig said the main similarity in all of the calls is that the person who claims to be from Microsoft has an Indian accent and that the number they give people to call back leads to a disconnected phone in New York.

Most of the scams are targeted at older people, as well.

"They will bring up something that's irrelevant but looks scary on the computer and use that as a tool to make you think something is wrong with the machine," Hennig said.

In cases where the scammer actually gets someone to go to their computer, Hennig said that person is made to look at something and describe it to the caller. The caller then convinces the person that their computer clearly has a virus and that they need to remotely access it.

That's when the caller asks for a credit card number to charge the person for "fixing" the computer. In reality, Hennig said it's just granting the scammer a way into someone's personal life.

"They can get your email contacts, view any file on your computer," Hennig said. "Basically, you're exposing your whole machine and anything you do to their whim and any passwords you have saved online can be gained."

Domondon said she is relieved she was able to recognize when she was being scammed, but worries someone who is older or inept with a computer might fall for a scam.

The Home Instead Senior Care office has the same concern and has started the Protect Seniors from Fraud program. Families can receive a free Senior Fraud Protection Kit as part of the program.

"They're just out there preying on people and it really makes me furious," Domondon said.

For more information on the Home Instead Senior Care office's Protect Seniors from Fraud program call (916) 705-6013.

Contact Amber Marra at amberm@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.