Elaborate computer scam bilking hundreds of thousands from residents

An example of what might appear on a victim’s computer screen. Image from the Federal Trade Commission.

If the alert comes up on your computer, don’t fall for the trap that could lead to you losing money. It’s a scam. Slow down, close your browser or turn off your computer, and contact someone you know and trust for help.

Unfortunately, these typse of scams are very sophisticated and use scare tactics to coerce people into giving away their money under the guise of protection.

Jasper Police Detective Greg Brescher reported three victims of this type of scam have made complaints to the police department in the past two days. The smallest amount lost, around $40,000; another over $200,000.

The scam begins with some sort of pop-up or window appearing on your computer stating there is a problem like an infection or malware on your computer. The messages usually tell you to click a link or contact a certain number for help. It will will appear to be associated with Microsoft, Apple or another familiar software company.

Once the call is made or link clicked, the scammers will work to take control of your computer and the information you have on it by asking for access to fix the problem. With the gathered data, they take advantage of the person’s fears to manipulate them into doing what they want.

“They will say things like, ‘I see you have three German American Bank accounts, those have all been compromised.'” Det. Brescher said.

The victims are told they need to remove the funds to be transferred to a new safe account. After funds are removed, they are ordered to either wire the funds or send it via cryptocurrency to the scammers accounts.

Brescher explained these scams are usually sourced overseas and sadly, for anyone falling victim to the scam, the funds are typically not recoverable. Once the money is sent electonically or through cryptocurrency, it is very difficult to trace, he said.

“If they come and report it to us and if it’s within 24 hours, we have a chance of possibly stopping the transaction,” Brescher said. “But if it’s beyond that, it’s gone.”

Each scam is a little bit different. They aren’t always pretending to be Apple or Microsoft. “They might say they are with the FBI or the ATF or the Federal Trade Commission, I’ve heard them all,” he said.

And the scammers will pose as individuals in those organizations or businesses. When someone does an internet search for the name of the person they are talking to, it will match up with whomever the scammers purporting to be.

It legitimizes the call for the victim.

Another common tactic is for the scammer to claim they found illicit material on the computer to scare the victim and further ensnare them in the trap.

Officials say that if someone has received this scam, they should not follow the instructions given. Please reach out to a local computer service for help. These scammers are very good at what they do and may have all the information about the victims, which makes it appear legitimate. 

“We hate it for the citizens that go through this,” Brescher said.

He said they try to keep the public informed about these scams. He urged individuals to inform their parents or grandparents about these types of scams that target the elderly.

“If something like this happens to you, just leave it alone,” he said. “Don’t follow through with it.”

This is just one of the many scams circulating. For questions or help, please reach out to the police before transferring money to someone you have never met. 

Here is an informative video from the FTC.