By Scott Bolthouse
It’s not often that journalists like myself become the news story. In fact, journalists are content solely with reporting the news and not being in it.
However, something happened to me over the weekend that struck a cord in me, and you’ve probably been warned by about it in the past. I received a scam phone call, and the goal of the person on the other line was to gain access into my computer. Let me set the scene:
On Saturday afternoon, I received a phone call to my home phone from an unknown source. I don’t normally answer unknown calls, but my internet-based phone system has been receiving a lot of annoying traffic lately. My goal was to answer and request to be taken off of their call list.
Unfortunately my priority changed immediately once I started talking to the person on the other line. They claimed to be “from Microsoft”, and that they can see on “their side” that my computer may have issues.
Here come the red flags. First: I own a Mac, not a Windows computer. Second: being in my twenties, I have practically grown up with computers and technology. Whether it’s Apple, Microsoft, Android, iOS or any other system for that matter, I have a pretty good grasp of technology. I knew that there was no way the person on the other end could have any statistics about my computer on their screen.
After those flags came up and having that journalistic itch wanting more information, I played around with the caller for a few minutes (also known as “playing dumb”). They tried to get me to log onto a “remote access site” so that they could “take control and figure out what is going on with my computer”. Remote access of a computer refers to the process in which you give access to your computer to another person. Many reputable computer repair/technical assistance websites and firms do this on a regular basis. This allows the technician to work on your computer from their location. However, Someone with bad intentions can gain access to your personal information, documents, financials, and other things normally hidden from the public.
The catch here is that no one should ever contact you informing that they can see from their end that there are problems with your computer. These callers mask themselves as representatives from companies like Microsoft. However, Microsoft has made it very clear that they will never contact you regarding your device- ever.
My guess is that these people research call registries and make an attempt to take control of computers whose users may not be as up to date on technology: senior citizens. After researching my own phone number (which we’ve only had for maybe a year) the former owner was over the age of 70.
If anyone ever contacts you soliciting for information, repairs, or just to ask “are there any problems with your computer?” the best bet is to hang up immediately and inform your local police department. They keep records of events like these and frequently make press releases telling citizens to ignore and report these types of phone calls. Warn your senior citizen friends about this scam, as well. The age of the internet is a strange, enlightening, and sometimes scary place to dwell in; especially if you’re new to the arena.