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Beware of computer scams

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Jan 29, 2014 at 4:07 PM

In recognition of Data Privacy Day, which Tuesday, Attorney General Mike DeWine warned Ohioans to beware of computer repair scams that trick consumers into providing personal information or payment.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has received dozens of reports of computer repair scams. For consumers who lose money, the average reported loss is approximately $200.

“Detecting and avoiding scams is one important way to protect your personal information and your money,” Attorney General DeWine said. “If someone contacts you unexpectedly, claiming you have a computer problem, be careful. It’s probably a scam. Never give an unexpected caller your credit card number or access to your computer.”

The computer repair scam often begins when the consumer receives a phone call from someone who claims that the consumer’s computer has a virus or needs an update. The caller often claims to represent a computer company and asks to access the consumer’s computer from the caller’s outside location. The caller also may ask for the consumer’s credit card number to clear up the issue.

In reality, the caller is not associated with a legitimate computer company and consumers who respond to the calls risk losing money or jeopardizing their computer security. The con artist may be able to access personal information, such as passwords or bank account information, putting victims at risk of identity theft.

Consumers can protect themselves by taking the following steps:

    While browsing online or checking e-mails, be cautious of links, attachments, and other downloads. Viruses often are encrypted in websites or e-mails that appear to be legitimate.

    Ensure that the latest version of anti-virus software is installed on your computer.

    Never allow callers to access your computer from a distant location. Once they have access to your computer, they have access to information stored on your computer and can install malware.

    Never opt to have your usernames and passwords automatically stored on your computer.

    Change your passwords often and opt to use only words and numbers that aren’t easily associated with your identity. For example, don’t use family or pet names, phone numbers, or birth dates as your passwords.

    If your computer is compromised, do not pay someone who calls you unexpectedly to correct the problem. Instead, visit a local, reputable repair shop and ask a technician to restore the hard drive to factory settings. Then, reinstall backup files and software.

Consumers who suspect a scam or unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at (800) 282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.

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