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’Computer technician scam’ preying on North Dakotans

"Computer technician scam" preying on North Dakotans
"Computer technician scam" preying on North Dakotans(KFYR-TV)
Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 4:31 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - You’ve probably heard of or received an email phishing scam.

But, experts say the scammers behind them are making the phony emails harder to catch.

The Attorney General’s office reports five North Dakotan’s have already fallen victim to a specific email scam in 2020, costing them a total of $31,000.

Experts say the "computer technician scam" is making rounds and working on victims due to how realistic it comes across.

A new, insidious scam is preying on victims first through an email.

"In all the email that's sent in the world, which is hundreds of millions of messages a day, between 2% and 5% are sent from suspicious impersonated senders," said Valimail Vice President of Research Dylan Tweney.

Scammers are preying on victims first through an email.

"You'll get a popup. A warning that will say, 'threat detected,' that suggests there's some problem with your computer," said Assistant Attorney General Parrell Grossman.

Followed up with a phone call.

"They'll offer a toll free number to call a tech support, a technician. And then, they set the hook and you're likely going to lose thousands of dollars before you're done," Grossman said.

The scammers will identify as a technician, trying to help you fix a problem with your computer.

Once you’ve given them access, they have control and the ability to access all your personal and financial information.

"They just use it to talk you through a process in which they download spyware or malware to your computer, so it's now infected," Grossman said.

That's what Parrell Grossman says makes it so believable.

"You can experience these computer problems in real time. So, suddenly it looks very legitimate-- like you're actually having these computer problems," Grossman said.

Grossman says he's seen this happen to many unsuspecting victims.

“This Bismarck couple. They’re in their early 70s. They received a popup on the screen indicating there was a problem with their computer. They were instructed to contact a number and then the hook was set for this particular scam,” Grossman said.

The couple lost $19,000. They're not the only ones.

The North Dakota attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division received 22 reports in 2019 from people who’ve fallen victim to the “computer technician scam.”

A loss totaling almost $250,000.

Grossman says your best defense is to never give out passwords or allow others to access your computer.

If you think you've received a scam via email, Grossman says to report it to the Attorney General's office by calling 1-800-472-2600.

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