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Living Smart: Don’t fall for tech-support scams

The phone rings. The voice on the other line informs you that your PC is infected with a virus that, fortunately for you, the caller’s well-known company can eliminate. Hmm, you think, that’s odd, since our family only uses Macs.

Hopefully, you hang up and that’s the end of it. But many people getting similar calls ended up falling for tech-support scams, handing over remote access to their computers and getting charged hundreds of dollars.

Computer tech-support professionals who’ve earned high marks from Angie’s List members warn you should never give anyone you don’t know access to your computer. Reputable tech-companies don’t operate through unsolicited phone calls.

Be wary in other ways, too, experts advise. Don’t click on online ads or pop-ups that claim your computer is infected and should be scanned. Be leery of ads promising services to speed up your computer.

If you’re wondering whether a computer service is worth considering or an email link worth opening, consider who initiated the communication. If it wasn’t you, don’t respond.

More tips for reducing the odds of your computer being compromised:

∎ Be careful about sites offering free applications, games and tools. Many are good, but some contain malware. Before downloading, search online to see what others have to say about it.

∎ Notice web addresses. Before clicking a link, look at the website address to which it will send you. If the address seems odd, carefully consider before clicking.

∎ Know what software your computer uses; keep it updated. Updates are often security-related.

∎ Wondering if your computer has a virus? Signs include slow performance, inability to launch programs or unfamiliar programs launching independently.

∎ When seeking help for computer issues, check the company’s reputation on a trusted online review site. Ask questions so you’re clear about credentials and training.

∎ Ask if charges are by the hour or the project. In the past year, Angie’s List members reported paying $50 to $260 to have top-rated computer-service providers remove viruses and malware.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care.

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