I-Team: Remote Access Scam

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Consumer experts say calls requesting remote access for your computer is a growing concern nationwide and in the Chicago area. (WLS)

An I-Team consumer alert: It starts as a frantic phone call and can end with someone hijacking your computer and taking your money.

Consumer experts say it's a growing concern nationwide and in the Chicago area.
People who say they are calling from Microsoft, trying to gain remote access to your computer.

Sharon Sultan-Cutler is an author on the city's Northwest Side and she's on her computer all of the time, so when she got a call from a man who told her he was from Microsoft, she was alarmed.

"So my heart sank because I am a writer and everything is on my computer," she said. "My life is on my computer so what I did was I freaked out and listened to him."

She says he told her that her desktop was at risk.

"This man explained to me in broken English that he was from Microsoft support and that he had, and that they detected a lot of errors and malware and viruses on my computer," she said.

Sultan-Cutler allowed the man to gain remote access to her computer. He could have been digging through files and her personal information. Then he told her she needed to sign up for a three-year protection plan costing $248.97. She gave him her debit card. A charge then came from a company in Kokata, India. Not Microsoft.

"I am angry," she said. "I am really, really angry. I am a reasonably smart person and I got hooked."

After talking to friends and researching online she says she soon figure out she'd been fooled.
Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau say Microsoft, Apple or computer manufacturers will never call you to ask for remote access to your computer.

"Another thing to remember, the caller ID, just because it says Microsoft or XYZ company, that's spoofing. They can change those caller IDs so a lot of consumers say 'You know what? It said a computer company or a major computer company,' but that's a trick," said Steve Bernas Better Business Bureau.

Sultan-Cutler ended up getting that $248 charge reversed from her debit card and her account number was changed. But she wants to warn people about this scheme which violated her privacy.

"So it's ok to hang up, it's ok to be angry and it is ok to not give information to anyone else," she said.

The FTC says Sultan-Cutler will now have to change any passwords connected to her computer and she may have to re-install legitimate security software.

She also says the scammers called her three more times after she reversed those charges, saying they would give her an additional refund, but that they needed her new account information. Thankfully, she hung up.

For more information: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0346-tech-support-scams
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