Whether you are using a computer daily for work, school, or personal use, or are in the process of looking for a new laptop or PC, it’s important to keep a look out for common computer scams that could leave you out of pocket and perhaps even put your personal data at risk.
Sadly, scams are only becoming more and more common around the world today and many people are falling foul to these attempts to take money fraudulently. Chances are that in recent years, most of us will have experienced some kind of attempted scam whether that’s regarding your computer or laptop or in relation to something else. Many of us will have seen the increase in scams over the past few years with more people working from home as a result of the COVID19 pandemic.
Whether you’re simply using your computer every day or are looking for a new laptop to buy, here are some common computer scams to be aware of.
Online shopping is a common way to buy a new laptop or computer these days. However, if you are shopping for a new laptop, it’s important to be aware of any common scams that might entice you to spend your money when the product you are going to receive isn’t legitimate.
Sadly, it’s easier than you might think for criminals to set up fake eCommerce websites mimicking legitimate laptop manufacturers and sellers, which is why it’s always crucial to ensure that you are shopping on a legitimate and trustworthy site before you buy. One of the easiest ways to do this is by checking for the padlock in the browser bar that indicates the site you are using is secured with SSL. However, since getting SSL isn’t difficult there are other things to look out for too.
If you’re shopping with a trustworthy manufacturer like Lenovo, for example, check the links and if necessary, call to verify prices and products for sale to ensure that you’re spending your money in the right place.
One of the most common scams when it comes to your computer or laptop is the ‘Microsoft’ scam. You’ll usually get a call to let you know that Microsoft has detected an issue with your computer, and they want to help you fix the problem. You’ll then be asked to go through a process that gives the ‘technician’ access to your computer, and it’ll usually be made to sound quite urgent, so you feel that if you don’t give access, your computer is going to have serious problems at any moment. They’ve even told people that their computer is about to burst into flames and cause a house fire. The good news is that they can ‘fix it’ right away for a ‘very low’ price of around $500 – but the fact is that there are no problems, and you’ll just be handing your money over to a scammer.
Microsoft will never call you to tell you that there is an issue with your computer, so if you get this kind of call, just hang up and ignore it.
Another way that scammers might try to get a hold of your money is to convince you that you have a virus on your computer, and you need to have it dealt with immediately.
Perhaps you’re browsing the internet minding your own business when a box will appear telling you that you have a virus on your computer, and you need to call a certain number to get rid of it. It might look legitimate, like it is coming directly from Microsoft if you use a Windows computer, or from the Apple website if you use a Mac. What’s even worse is that you might not even be able to leave the warning page, which makes it appear even more serious. However, what’s actually happened is that you have landed on a web page that has been hijacked by scammers to give them access to anybody who is browsing the site. This could happen on any site, but it is most likely to be on a website that has poor security, which is out of your control.
Even websites that you have visited hundreds of times could be hijacked suddenly this way. It’s almost impossible to avoid, but the good news is that even if it seems that you can’t leave the page where the virus warning has popped up at the time, there are ways around it. Remember that while the website might have been hacked, the computer itself hasn’t. So, try pressing the CTRL, ALT, and DELETE keys at the same time and shutting your browser down from the task manager menu. Or, if this doesn’t work, you can force restart your computer by holding down the power button.
Another phone scam that you should be aware of is getting a call that claims to be from the Canada Revenue Agency, saying that you owe them unpaid taxes and will be prosecuted if you do not pay them immediately. It’s usually an automated voice on the phone and they will give you a number to call. When you call the number, you’ll usually either be asked to provide your credit card information or they will demand that you purchase gift cards for payment, like iTunes gift cards.
While it’s not an uncommon situation to owe more than you expected in taxes, you’d never actually be asked to make payment in iTunes gift cards, and you probably won’t be prosecuted for it if you’re communicating and working out a payment plan.
If you are concerned that you owe money and are worried by the call, you should contact the CRA directly or visit their website to find out. If somebody calls you claiming to be from the CRA, remember that you don’t have to provide them with any personal information they ask for. You can verify the legitimacy of the call by going to the website or calling the official number yourself.
Scams are only becoming more and more common when you are buying a new computer or using your computer, so be aware of what to look out for and how to protect yourself.