I’ve written about scams that get you to call a phone number and help bad guys access your computer before. Here’s another variety you need to be aware of.
My wife’s computer has had this happen twice in the last few weeks (click the image for a larger view):
Chrome is locked up – you can’t close the tab, click away, or do anything else except kill the browser in Task Manager. A computerized voice repeatedly intones, “Your computer is infected. Your data is being stolen. Call this number for support…” You can imagine that this would be very frightening to someone who is not computer-savvy, and a lot of people will fall for it.
Just to see how the scam works, I called the number (855-335-8826 – don’t call this number) and got an agent with a foreign accent (sounded Indian or Pakistani to me) asking how he could help. Putting on my “geezer voice,” I told him that my computer was talking to me and telling me that my data was being stolen.
- Agent: “Have you downloaded anything lately?”
- Me: “No.”
- Agent: “I will direct you through a couple of steps so I can access your computer and help you fix this problem. Look at your keyboard in the lower left – do you see the Window key? I want you to press that key, together with the letter ‘r’. [Note: he wants me to run a program.]
- Agent: “Type the letters ‘hh’, then a space, then the letter ‘t’ in the ‘open’ box. Then press the “OK” button.
- Me: “Ok, I did that.” [This is what I get]
- Agent: “Do you see the little question mark in the upper left hand corner? I want you to click that and select the option that says “Jump to URL.”
- Agent: “Now type this in the box: ‘www.support.me’
- Me: “OK, I’ve done that.” [This is what I get]:
- Agent: “I will now give you a 6-digit code to enter into the box. Your number is 925837. Please type that into the box and click ‘Start Download’.”
- Me: Do you really think I’m going to allow access to my computer by a bunch of scammers? Get a life. *click*
What’s going on here is that if I had entered the number, I would have given complete control of my machine to a random scammer, and from that point he could have
- Stolen sensitive data like passwords, contact lists, or financial information.
- Infected my computer with malware
- Taken control of my machine and woven it into a spamming botnet.
- Other things more horrible that I wish to contemplate.
There are websites out there that tell you how to remove the “infection” that causes this popup; most of them exist to shill programs like Zemana, Malwarebytes, and HitMan Pro. Free versions of these are legitimate, but don’t be conned into buying “Pro” versions unless you really need their features. Others may ask you to download their own proprietary removal tool. Be wary of such sites.
The key here is that if you get the “Zeus” malware popup, NEVER CALL THE NUMBER. You’ll just be opening yourself up to fraudsters who want to do very bad things to you and your computer.
Be careful out there.
The Old Wolf has spoken.