Vinton Computer

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Computer Scams Are Robbing Our Community of Potentially Millions of Dollars

Computer Scams

Cybercrime losses have continued to spiral year-over-year across the country – and the Roanoke and Vinton areas are no exception. According to FBI reporting, cybertheft increased by 49% in 2022 compared to the previous year. The financial losses people incurred totaled $10.3 billion. This data only includes reported losses. Many individuals do not report when they have been scammed online.

At Brambleton and Vinton Computer, our team has seen an increasing number of individuals come into our stores asking for help after their bank accounts were wiped out, credit cards charged, and personal information stolen by cybercriminals who gained access to their computer.

According to our owner Chris Duncan. the amount of money people in the area have lost is likely in the millions. For example, recently a customer said she lost $300,000 to a hacker who emptied her bank account.

Contributing to the increase in losses is the number of cyberthieves who act as tech support or help desk representatives. They email individuals offering computer assistance, impersonate reputable companies by buying ads on search engines, or call saying something is wrong with the person’s computer. Sometimes these bad actors provide a link for people to access tech support. Yet, clicking on the link may provide the cybercriminal with full entry into the computer.

With access, the thief can steal passwords, banking information, personal data, and other valuable information. Other times, a nefarious tech support person will spend time talking, chatting or emailing the individual – and then ask for compensation to fix the fake problem. The criminal will send a dangerous link to secure payment, which allows free reign to credit card information and bank accounts.

In addition to gaining access through dubious help desk support, criminals can take control of a computer by sending emails with fake link-based offers, providing clickable images, using phony social media accounts, and enticing people to click on a link to participate in a fake sweepstakes.

How to Protect Yourself

It is critical to never let anyone access your computer remotely – even if you think he or she is offering legitimate help. Often criminals will spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone or chat with you to gain your trust so they can scam you.

To avoid being a victim, here are tips and red flags to be aware of.

  • Don’t open emails or click on links from persons and companies you don’t know.
  • Don’t download attachments from unknown or unexpected sources. They could contain dangerous software that could provide a bad actor with access to your data.
  • Don’t give out personal information in an email, social media account, chat, or over the phone to someone you don’t know.
  • Check for suspicious email domains in your inbox. Hover over the email to see the domain from which the email is coming. If you don’t recognize it, delete it immediately.
  • Do not click on pop-up warnings on your computer that indicate a problem.
  • Don’t take phone calls from unsolicited help desk representatives. And, don’t trust caller ID.
  • Never send money to someone you don’t know – even in exchange for alleged services they provide, such as fixing a problem with your computer.
  • See if your browser provides the option of blocking or enabling remote access. Turn off the remote access.
  • Stay informed about the latest cyber threats and scams by following reputable cybersecurity blogs, news sources, and official government websites. Knowledge is your best defense against cybercriminals.
  • Use a strong security software package and VPN (virtual private network) – and keep them up-to-date.
  • Look for spelling and grammar mistakes in the email. Dangerous emails are often poorly written and often contain errors.
  • If something feels off about an email or request, trust your instincts and investigate further before taking any action.

For more information, click here for a related article: Stay Safe Online and Protect Your Digital Data >>

Need Computer Help?

If you have questions or need help, please call us at 540-904-2070 or come by our Vinton Computer store at 360 East Virginia Avenue in Vinton.