A computer scam, that has been around for several years, is finding new victims in Butler County.
A computer scam, that has been around for several years, is finding new victims in Butler County. Neil Coleman, owner of Computers Plus in Andover, said he has had 30 to 40 customers in the past three months who have been effected, including one man who was bilked out of more than $700.
“It starts with a phone call,” said Coleman. “They say they are with Microsoft and that your computer is infected.”
From there the scammer will instruct you to go to a Web site and enter a code they give you to fix your computer.
“At this point you will be prompted to pay money to fix your computer,” said Coleman. “Even if you don’t go any further than that, it is enough for them to put a lock on your computer with a password, that keeps you from accessing your machine. Of course now they want money to give you that password.”
Microsoft is aware of the scam, and even has a Web page dedicated to informing customers about it. Coleman said the best advice he can give people is to just hang up on anyone who calls you this way and absolutely don’t go to the Web site they provide.
“If you still have concerns about your computer call someone local,” said Coleman. “If there is actually something wrong, a local computer technician can probably fix it.”
Coleman said if a person goes to the Web site, but don’t completely fall for the scam, it will cost about $100 for him to clean up the machine. If a person actually pays the scam people he or she could be out $200 to $700 and then still have to pay to clean up the machine.
Coleman said most of the victims he sees are older people.
“My customer who was scammed out of hundreds of dollars is a doctor. He is a very smart man,” said Coleman. “These people sound very legitimate and they can really fool you.”
Once they scam you, it is hard to get your money back, even if you call the police.
“They are very hard to track and trace,” said Lt. Brandon Stewart, investigations commander with the Andover Police Department. “We have to obtain an IP address and go after them that way.”
If the scammer is overseas, that is nearly impossible.
Stewart said he deals with several Internet and phone scams a year and elderly people are the most common victims.
“Elderly people often aren’t as ‘tech savy’ as younger people,” said Stewart. “But the elderly aren’t the only ones being scammed. I am working a case now that involves a local business owner who wired money overseas, and another case from a lady who sold something on Craig’s List and was paid with a bad check.”
Stewart said in his years in law enforcement he has seen the number of financial crimes increase drastically as technology becomes more readily available.
“We as law enforcement officers are seizing more electronic evidence than ever before,” said Stewart. “My best advice is don’t ever give personal information to people you don’t know.”