Seniors, beware of online fraudsters (Jan. 26, 2022)


I work with computers. I’ve developed software for over 45 years.

Since 2013, I’ve provided a service to help people, typically those I know, with repairing, upgrading and fixing issues with computers.

During this time, I’ve assisted numbers of people, typically older like me, with issues resulting from fraud. The fraud typically comes from one of two sources, with a third un-computer-related worthy of note.

The first is a web page that comes up saying there is a problem of some sort with the computer and that you should contact the linked security service to have the problem taken care of.

The second is an email that purports to be a bank or service such as Amazon that needs you to attend to a charge or issue of some sort on your account.

The third is a phone call that claims to be the police, IRS, bank, Microsoft support, etc. that has a warrant out or some claim that you need to attend to.

Our initial urge is to think, “Oh no, I need to respond to that.” That’s because we grew up in a trusting society. Deals were made with a word given and a handshake. But that is not the society we are in now! I can’t emphasis that enough. You cannot trust your initial instincts.

Too many people I’ve helped, many close friends, acted first on their initial instinct. Some linked to the security service and gave them access to their computer. Others called and gave them personal information about their plastic cards, bank accounts, passwords, etc. This done, only to pay several hundred dollars to those accessing their computer or have money taken out of their accounts.

Those with computer issues are the easiest to solve. Those giving access to accounts and such, must deal with their financial institutions typically requiring new plastic cards, passwords and acceptance of lost funds hopefully avoiding worse via identity theft.

One thing I found recently that I suspect is data mining software, Kryptex in this case, put on a computer; likely from the outside security service given remote access to the computer. This is interesting in that data mining runs in the background, using unused power of your computer to perform cryptocurrency hashing. You can do this for yourself and get a bit of income for it. Hopefully more than the extra electricity cost to perform the additional processing.

In this case, the owner knew nothing about this software. He brought his computer to me because it was running very slow. I found this software and removed it via the app uninstall process. Only later after further discussion with my friend, to consider that this software was possibly installed with the income directed to the bad actor’s account. Do this on enough computers and you could garner an appreciable sum. I can’t prove this, just suspect it.

If this letter scares you, it should. It should scare you into questioning all unrequested, unexpected media phishing scams. It should make your first instinct to question them and to not respond to them.

Banks and online dealers do not contact you this way. The IRS and police do not call you to say there is an issue. Web pages that say there is a security issue are the issue themselves. Do not respond to them.

Banks and online dealers typically have a fraud prevention protocol that you can forward the suspect emails to. In any case, delete the emails. If the issue is a web-page saying you have a security breach, close the pages tab in your browser. Hang up on suspect phone calls. IRS, police, Microsoft, etc. do not call you about issues. They contact you via snail mail or come to your door.

The bottom line is to beware. Sorry to make you a bit paranoid. However, over these things it is justified. Pause and think before responding. Save yourself cost and hassle buy not responding in the first place.

Rich Rowley

Sweet Home