Q: I opened my computer today and it was locked up by what looked like Microsoft. It warned me that my computer was infected by the ZEUS virus. I tried everything I know how to get out of the site without success. In desperation, I dialed the listed phone number, which went to a call center, where after a short wait I was connected to someone who said he would help me.
His help consisted of telling me everything that was wrong with my computer and offering to fix it for $499. When I told him I would purchase a new computer rather than pay that much, he lowered the price to $300. He also mentioned a site in Beachwood where I could take my computer to be fixed, although I never got an address. I again told him that before I gave him any amount, I would buy a new computer. He then agreed to return control of my computer to me. As far as I can tell my computer is operating as before.
Every appearance was this indeed was Microsoft. If it was not, they should have something out explaining what is going on. If it is, shame on them!
B.D., Brunswick Hills
A: First, this message was not from Microsoft. Second, I sure hope you haven’t been using your computer for anything more than checking the weather forecast, because thieves could be stealing your passwords and personal information as we speak.
These scams have been common for years. You somehow stumble across a virus, either from clicking on a bad link in an email, or from some virus you encountered on some Facebook coupon offer, or from going to a shady web site.
Reputable companies — be it Microsoft or Apple or whoever — don’t infect our computers with viruses and then tell us we can pay $499 by phone to get the problem fixed.
You should never call the phone number or send a message to the email address in a pop-up like this. You shouldn’t feel bad for initially falling for it — I’ve talked to many savvy folks who’ve gotten suckered into a scam because everything seems so real.
Thankfully, you didn’t pay the ransom money. However, I’m very concerned that you’ve apparently continued to use your computer. You need to get your computer checked out by a local, reputable computer repair shop that specializes in virus removal.
Until you do that, you should use another computer to change all of your passwords — especially your primary email account and any bank, credit card or investment accounts you log into. Like, do this today! You also should keep an extra-close eye on your financial accounts for any unusual transactions. And you should consider contacting your bank and other financial service providers to let them know you may have had some personal information compromised and can ask if they can please flag your account for any attempt to change your mailing address or other personal information.
Q: The issues you raised in your column about “Red Flags” when selling a car online was informative, but also accusatory in that you have implied most if not all people are not trustworthy and to some point ignorant.
“Never deal with someone who communicates only by text or email or won’t talk on the phone.” I disagree with that. I am deaf and those two options are all that I have and feel very comfortable at making judgment calls much better via text and email than some smooth talking guy/girl on the phone. I understand your position but concerned as to your disregard for those in positions such as myself.
Just my thoughts. And by the way, I am 72 years of age and to my knowledge, I have yet to be scammed. It all has to do with the one’s common sense. It blows my mind how gullible so many people are, young and old and in-between.
A.G., Olmsted Township
A: You sound like a nice man, but if you wanted to buy my car, and you wanted to handle the transaction completely by email or text, without talking by phone or meeting in person, we wouldn’t be doing business. Clearly, the problem transactions occur when a “buyer” wants to send a check (probably fraudulent) and buy a car sight-unseen, and have it picked up by some third party. If you were a local guy who wanted to buy
someone’s car, I’m sure you could explain you’re deaf and want to meet in person to test-drive the car, go to the bank together, etc. That works.
I’d say that most people are trustworthy. But most people who act shady and want to buy a car without seeing it and don’t ask questions about it probably shouldn’t be trusted.
But read on:
Q: I have bought many cars sight-unseen, all from Autotrader.com. That said, they were from dealers and not directly from a private seller, although Autotrader.com lists private sellers too. The last one I bought was from California: an international lawyer bought a 2012 Range Rover turbocharged with all the bells and whistles and stored in an underground air-conditioned garage. Only 10,500 miles on it in four years when I purchased it last year. Original price was $112,000. I paid $48,000 and had it shipped for $700. He had a local non-Land Rover dealer handle the logistics. It can be done and you find a lot of diamonds.
A: You hit on it — you were buying from dealers, not private sellers. Totally