No Break From Scams This Holiday Season
Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner
As I was mulling over ideas on Friday the 13th for my next column, the telephone rang. I have to admit I do not like talking on the phone. So when I receive any kind of unsolicited phone call, I get a little annoyed. My husband is much more patient than I am, turning the tables on the caller by politely asking for information he can use to verify the caller’s identity.
The caller had a heavy Indian accent and said she worked for Windows Technical Support and detected a problem with my Windows operating system. Was my computer turned on now? Was I sitting at my computer? I told her I did not trust her and hung up.
She called back and my husband took the call. He got her to reveal that her name was Alex Smith, but she still did not reveal the company she represented. My husband asked for a call back number (857-366-7172) and her id number (02/AS/12). I doubted her name was Alex and figured the phone and id number were completely made up.
A Google search of the phone number revealed that this scam has been done before, as far back as January 2012. The company’s name is The Tech Care and they are located in the Boston area. Their goal is to gain control of your computer. After spending a few hours running security scans of my computer, I felt confident no harm had been done.
For more information on this scam, check out these resources:
- Federal Trade Commission
- Over 200 replies to this scam on Microsoft’s website
- The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau is on to them
- 800 notes – Directory of Unknown Callers
Scams happen when you have your guard down and they can happen to anyone.
It happened to me over a year ago. After a long day of traveling, we finally got to our hotel room around midnight. While my husband went to get ice, the phone rang. It was the front desk saying that they had a computer problem and our information had been lost. We had stayed at this hotel before and they had computer problems – so I didn’t think twice when the caller asked for the credit card number used to make the reservation. Luckily we had used my husband’s credit card so when he came back in I handed the phone back to him.
He told the caller he would come down to the lobby and provide the information in person. Of course, the clerk at the front desk had no idea what he was talking about. But he had received a call from someone requesting our room number. This time we had stayed in a room facing away from the main street. We noticed some houses across the parking lot had their lights on. Apparently this person knew the layout of the hotel and saw the light go on in the room when we entered. From the calmness in his voice, it was clear he had tried this scam before.
I give workshops on avoiding identity theft, but I almost became a victim myself because I was really tired. Boy, did I feel like an idiot. I can honestly say that my husband is truly my better half.
For tips on avoiding identity theft, visit the official identity theft website of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Visit the FTC’s Onguard Online website for help in combating online scams and protecting your computer from malware.