I think my mom was the victim of a cyber scam. She is retired and not all that computer savvy, and she feels really stupid for falling for it and doesn’t want to talk to anyone. In her case, she allowed an unsolicited caller who she thought was a technician remote access to her computer. I think she needs to get her computer checked out, and I’m wondering what else she should do and how I can help her.
One of the worst things about being the victim of any kind of crime is that the victim tends to blame themselves. Being taken advantage of can make you feel vulnerable, small and weak. It’s also very easy to lose sight of the fact that what happened was a crime.
Older people are especially vulnerable to these cyber-crimes, which is why it’s so important to talk to other members of the community. Educating people is one way to both empower yourself and prevent the crime from happening again. Your mother has valuable information because these cyber-crimes are ever-evolving. Encourage her to use her frustration to turn the situation around. Guide her through the following three steps:
What To Do If You’ve Been Scammed
Step #1: Take care of your money
There are many different ways a cyber-criminal can get paid, but they may also have set the stage so they can get paid again. If you gave them remote access to your computer, they likely captured passwords and other sensitive information relating to bank accounts and financial institutions. If you act fast enough, you might be able to stop the charges from occurring.
- If you gave out credit card information, cancel the card.
- If you paid using an E-check or wired money from a bank account, close the account.
- Contact any financial institutions you do online banking with from your computer; let them know you were the victim of a cyber scam and that you want to take steps to protect your accounts.
Step #2: Take care of your computer
There are many ways a scammer works to gain access to your computer. If you gave an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer, or opened an unsolicited email or downloaded an attached security update, you likely have spyware or malicious software installed on your computer. Do the following:
- Scan your computer with the Microsoft Safety Scanner or Windows Defender (included free with Windows software) to find out if you have any harmful programs installed on your computer. You can choose to do a fast scan or the slow scan which can take several hours.
- Install Microsoft Security Essentials. Microsoft Security Essentials is a free program, so if someone calls you to install this product and then charge you for it, this is also a scam.
- Contact the Microsoft Help Desk and work with a support technician to have a deeper scan run on your computer. The technician will perform the scan and remove the files for you. There may be a fee for this service.
- Change your computer’s password and the passwords for your email accounts.
- Change the passwords for any financial accounts, especially for your bank and credit cards.
Step #3: Take care of yourself
Getting scammed is a terrible feeling, and it only feels worse if you keep it to yourself. Talk about it. One of the most empowering things you can do for yourself and for the world is to spread the word about what happened. Post to Facebook and other social media sights, and most importantly, file reports with the following organizations:
- Report the crime to Microsoft. If the criminal identified themselves as being technical support from Microsoft or Windows, they may have given you the name of a company. The following companies are just a few of those known to be fraudulent: Windows Helpdesk, Windows Service Center, Microsoft Tech Support, Microsoft Support, Windows Technical Department Support Group, Microsoft Research and Development Team (Microsoft R & D Team), and Windows PC Services.
- File a Report with the Federal Bureau of Investigation: Go to their website and fill out the FBI IC3 form. The Internet Crime Complaint Center will accept online complaints either from you or complaints made on some else’s behalf.
- File a Report with the Federal Trade Commission. You can do this online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Bottom Line: Take action by protecting yourself and others!
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