Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Scammers targeting home computers

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IF you get a random phone call from Microsoft, Windows, Jars Support or Online PC Care, chances are someone's trying to scam you.

And Manitobans have been some of the favourite targets of these cyber fraud artists. Just ask Winnipegger David Adams.

He's become kind of an expert in saying no or hanging up the phone when he gets these calls.

And Adams says he's had plenty of practice.

"I've received many calls -- sometimes they were coming every day or every other day," said Adams, who contacted the Free Press this week. "Once it was twice a day. These guys just don't get it."

Adams -- and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC), more commonly known as Phonebusters -- say the scam's details have remained the same for more than a year.

When you pick up the phone, an individual says your computer is running slow or has viruses and they say they can fix it over the Internet through remote access to your computer. If you comply, they will talk you through the process as you click on the keyboard of your computer and move your mouse.

At the end when they've installed a program onto your hard drive, they will ask for the three-digit security number on the back of your credit card and then put the payment through.

Adams said he believes the call he received originated from India. He said he could also tell from the numerous voices in the background he wasn't the only one receiving a call about a computer problem.

"I think they're working their way through the phone book," said Adams, who, ultimately, didn't fall prey to the fraudsters.

Jeff Thomson of the CAFC said the organization had logged about 350 complaints about this type of scam from January 2010 to March 2011.

But Thomson said that since then the scam has exploded and Manitoba is one of the main targets.

More than 5,832 Canadians have complained they've been phoned by persons unknown, with 602 of them coming from they Keystone province.

And of the 602 Manitobans who got the calls, 96 became victims of the scam.

"It was spiking in Manitoba and Ontario in February, but they're hitting right across Canada now and there are reports in the United Kingdom and United States now," he said.

"It's probably our No.1 scam."

Thomson said the victims have been scammed anywhere from $35 to $469, but investigators still don't know exactly what type of program has been installed on each computer and what it could enable someone to do in future.

"We are waiting the results of technical analysis," he said.

"If you give third-party access to your computer, who knows what they might install?"

Thomson said there is one thing people should remember if they get a call like this: "If you're having trouble with your computer, you're the only one who will know that. Get it checked out by a local store."

Const. Jason Michalyshen of the Winnipeg Police Service also has some advice for Winnipeggers.

"We want members of the public to be diligent about the security of their computers and the protection of their personal information. If you receive a call of this type, hang up immediately."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 8, 2011 0

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