CONSUMER ALERT: Beware of computer scam

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – There’s a scam that’s going around like a virus. Actually, it’s spreading viruses to computers, with the help of the owner of the computer.

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says the real virus is a tech support scammer.

“If you receive a call out of the blue claiming that your computer has a virus and that the caller can help you get rid of it, hang up immediately. It is a scam,” warned DATCP.

These “tech supports” often say they work with Microsoft or and tell consumers they can remove the (non-existent) virus from their computer for a fee. The caller asks the victim to download software from the internet that gives them remote access to the system.

The scammer could then load malicious software, viruses and access your personal files.

“For people who shop, file taxes, access medical records or bank online, a computer may hold a wealth of personal and financial information including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and banking and routing account numbers. Giving access to a computer-savvy scammer is a recipe for disaster,” said DATCP.

On top of all this, the scammers might ask the victim to pay a fee over the phone using a credit card.

Michael Schrader of Altoona said he was recently contacted by the scammers.

“He said numerous times to me, if you want to save your computer you will listen to me now,” said Schrader. “He told me he doesn't work for windows, he works with windows and my computer’s been sending numerous error messages to his corporation and that he needs to inform me of a virus that’s out there and I needed to go to this website to read up on how the FBI is going to shut down the internet on anyone who has the 'Alureon' virus.

After multiple phone calls, Schrader decided to beat the caller at his own game. Schrader said he didn’t have any personal information on his computer so he decided to give the scammer permission to remote access his device.

What the caller didn't know is that Schrader is studying software development at the Chippewa Valley Technical College and he only let the scammer access his computer so that he could gather information for the police.

“He came back and said we found a problem. You need to download this software to get rid of all your problems and it’s a one-time fee and that’s when I told him I was calling the police,” said Schrader.

Todd Welch is the co-owner of TC-Teks Computers in Eau Claire. He said there has been at least a dozen customers with similar stories, many who ended up with viruses on their computers.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people, they get scared when they are called and said they're under attack or they're being hacked or something and they let these people in and then they get lots of viruses on their computer,” said Welch.

He says once hackers get on your computer, they have VIP access.

“A lot of times what they'll do is they'll sit in the background and when you're going to your websites to your email, to your bank accounts, they're tracking everything you're typing in and sending it to a 3rd party,” said Welch.

Welch said the biggest sign of a scam is if the caller is the one to ask for access onto your computer and if the phone call is out of the blue.

“No matter how good of an anti-virus or whatever you might have, if you let them through those defenses, they can pretty much do anything and there’s nothing else that can really stop that,” said Welch.

Welch said viruses are the biggest issues TC-Teks comes across. Around 80 percent of the computers that come in have viruses, usually from malicious links and emails.

“99.9 percent of the time, Microsoft or some other company is not going to call you just like if somebody calls and asks you for your credit card information, don't give it to them and don’t' give them access to your computer,” said Welch.

If this happens to you, you can do what Schrader did and wipe out your computer or Welch said you can take it to a professional to do the same and also install anti-virus software.

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