An Okotoks business owner is warning of a scam that's becoming increasingly prevalent amongst local elderly residents.
Owner of Okotoks Computers, Peter Van den Wildenbergh heard from nine local seniors last week, all looking for help after a similar experience.
They'd all experienced scams relating to granting remote access to their computers.
It begins with the victim receiving a call or a message on their computers from someone posing as an IT specialist or a Microsoft employee.
The scammer will convince the victim there’s some sort of issue with their computer, and pressure the victim into granting remote access of their computer to the scammer.
Van den Wildenbergh says younger demographics are usually able to catch on, so older generations are targeted more often.
"They are more trustworthy, they see them as some sort of authority. It’s called social engineering, they pretend to be from Microsoft or Norton or some other big name that anybody knows, and (victims) say ‘oh, that must be important.’ It’s like the government is calling, so they are handing over whatever information they’re asking for without a second thought until it's too late."
Remote access allows third parties complete access to a computer as if they were sitting in front of it. It’s often used for IT solutions within companies.
"Those scammers know that they had you once, they will try again and their tactics become more and more aggressive. They will call back and threaten you with jail time, and fines and fees." ~Peter Van den Wildenbergh
When it comes to these scams, perpetrators are able to conceal their activities by hiding the screen to the victim.
“The thing is, a lot of people use the browser memory to memorize their banking password. If you know a little bit about computers, it’s very easy to extract those passwords from the browser while showing something else on the screen. In the background they are just copying all those passwords over, then they do their damage after they disconnect,” says Van den Wildenbergh.
His first advice to people who have experienced this scam is to immediately contact their bank. If they’re quick enough, the bank will typically be able to freeze payments and transfers.
That's because this scam isn't anything new, though Van den Wildenbergh has seen one newer detail recently, though.
"What I have seen with the last couple cases is they leave some software inside Windows to basically connect back whenever you turn on your computer. That’s new to me, they usually use something like Team Viewer or Where is My PC or something to take over the screen and copy the passwords over, but having software installed that then connects back, that is new to me."
Because they rely on social engineering rather than viruses or hacking, these particular scammers are powerless of the victim doesn’t give them remote access.
"Those scammers know that they had you once, they will try again and their tactics become more and more aggressive. They will call back and threaten you with jail time, and fines and fees and whatnot if you don’t cooperate…If they had you once, they will try again."
As far as prevention, he says the best defence against these scams is just knowing about them ahead of time.
Recognizing patterns such as the aggressive tactics these scammers use and the fact that companies like Microsoft don't call customers out of the blue to resolve technical issues is key for avoiding having your info stolen.
If you think you're a victim of fraud, contact the Fraud Reporting System (Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre) or call toll-free at 1-888-495-8501.
You can also file a report of a misleading or deceptive marketing practice with the Competition Bureau using the online complaint form.