How to avoid computer and internet scams
By Eric Geier (Our Founder & Owner)
Originally published by Cox Media Group on 3/7/22
I’ve written about this many times over the years, but the scammers don’t stop, so I won’t stop bringing it up.
In my computer and IT services business, we still regularly get calls from customers that have let a remote scammer onto their computer.
Sometimes they even pay the scammer before realizing it was a scam, or they pay even though it doesn’t feel right, but they just want to stop being hounded. So, here I share even more tips to help ensure you don’t fall victim:
Never trust unsolicited phone calls saying your computer has issues: Even if they say they’re from Microsoft, Windows, Apple or another popular corporation, a legit company will never call you unsolicited saying your computer, internet or an online account has issues. I’ve heard countless customers of ours get these scam attempts. If you get a call out of the blue like this, I suggest just hanging up.
Some legit companies (like Google or Apple) will send email and/or phone alerts on security concerns, so those could be true, but they never call you. If in doubt, go to their website directly to check status or message/ call them from contact info you get directly from their website. If you still are in doubt, contact a local computer pro for advice.
Never call someone if your computer says to: Similar to unsolicited phone calls, a legit company never pops up on your computer screen saying to call them or plays an alert message through the speakers saying to call them. These are also popular scam attempts we see often. In many cases, you may find it hard to get the alert message off the screen or to stop the audio alert. If you need help, contact a local computer pro for advice.
Don’t click on Search Engine ads: Most search engines display ads that look like results. Sometimes this is helpful, allowing you to discover new products and services.
But remember, scammers can also try to trick you by posting seemingly legit ads that lead to phishing sites. I don’t suggest clicking the ads; stick to the real organic search results. Most search sites display several ads on the top and bottom of each result page, and some spread ads throughout the list. Some ads are more identifiable than others, but typically you’ll see the word ad next to each of those paid results or a section labeled ads with a collection of them.
Upgrade if you have an older PC: If you have an older computer running Windows XP, Vista or 7, you’re more vulnerable to viruses and malware. I suggest using Windows 10 or 11.
Contact a local computer pro to help you understand your options on upgrading your current PC or getting a new one and having everything transferred over.
Get extra malware protection: You should already have an anti-virus that’s protecting your computer, but many of those don’t stop other junk like scams, adware or PUPs (potentially unwanted programs). Malwarebytes (www.malwarebytes.com) is my favorite scanner for finding or stopping this other junk that might not be classified as a virus but still causes issues.
They have a free edition that you can use to manually run scans, and you can optionally buy it to actively protect you all the time.
Enable two-factor authentication: Most sensitive websites and accounts, like email, banks and online stores, allow you to enable two-factor authentication.
This would require an extra step to login to your account after entering the password, such as entering a one-time code sent to you via email, text message or a phone call. You can usually make this happen with every login or just logins from new/ other computers. I suggest at least the latter on your important accounts. That way if your passwords are ever captured by a scammer or virus, the two-factor authentication can stop them from logging in even though they might have your correct password.
Get a yearly professional checkup and cleanup: Even if you don’t seem to have issues, I strongly recommend getting a full computer checkup each year at home, and for businesses I suggest even more often. A computer tech can check many security, safety and reliability aspects.