Monday April 2, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Attorney General William Sorrell is warning consumers of a new telephone scam in which callers, claiming to be from Microsoft, state that the consumer’s computer has been infected with a virus and/or a series of operating system errors. The caller then asks the consumer to allow them remote access to the consumer’s computer to "fix" the problem.

Consumers should be aware that this remote access can provide full access to all of the files stored on the computer, as well as to Internet browsing history. It gives scammers an opportunity to install malware such as "keyloggers" that can capture sensitive information such as bank account numbers and passwords to secure websites used by the consumer. Consumers should not respond to any caller claiming to offer services to fix errors or a virus on their computers. Similarly, consumers should beware of online pop-up messages (often referred to as "scareware") that claim to have found a virus or error and offer a free service to "fix" the problem. Some of these may also offer a phone number.

With consumer computer hacking on the rise, consumers should follow these tips for computer security: Do not click on any pop-up messages that indicate a "problem" or "virus" and offer a free solution or telephone support; use smart password practices such as frequently changing your passwords and using non-word passwords, passwords that involve numbers, special characters and capitalized letters, and cutting-and-pasting passwords (rather than typing them every time, which helps foil keylogging software tracking); never click through links in an e-mail, instead copy and paste a link address into a browser only if you are sure of the origin of the e-mail; do not open attachments to an e-mail unless you are sure of the contents and the sender; use a separate computer for online banking that is only used for that purpose (no e-mail, browsing or other use); use and maintain (with regular updates) reliable anti-virus software; and secure your wireless network with encryption (a simple and standard feature on most wireless routers) to prevent unauthorized use of and access to your network.

For more information or to file a consumer complaint, visit the Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program website at www.uvm.edu/consumer, email to consumer@uvm.edu or call the Consumer Assistance Program Hotline toll free in Vermont at (800) 649-2424. Consumers can also find more information about cyber security online from the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt121.shtm and from the federal Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.