Avoiding Scammers: early 2023 edition

Monday, January 16, 2023 12:00AM

One of the biggest threats facing many regular technology users, is the scammers. Since computer security has evolved to the point where the time and effort to defeat it directly isn’t worth it. Not when it’s a lot easier to trick a user into calling a number and giving them access to a computer after a little convincing.

A sense of urgency

I’ll start with one of their biggest assets when pulling off a scam; convincing their target that there is a sense of urgency involved or something very bad will happen.

Whether that’s their computer self-destructing, or their nephew spending more time in jail than they need to. It’s always something bad.

When someone is threatening grave consequences if you don’t do something trivial right now, stop and think. It may save you thousands.

Repeated attempts

When you first show some interest, they will have you pinned as someone who is gullible. And it can be hard to shake. Sometimes this repetitiveness and the frustration it causes is enough to make someone fall victim to their scams.

Stay strong, don’t fall for it no longer how long they persist. They may realize over time they will not get through and move onto other targets.

Locking everything out

Many times, the scams I see is some popup that has a phone number with flashing text and an audio clip saying that the computer is infected. The way that the popup works is that it’s very difficult to exit out of unless you know what you’re doing. That alone makes some people fall for it and call the number.

But do not call that number. Sometimes you can work through the problem with the steps below:

How to get out of a sticky popup

There are a few tricks to the trade to get out of a popup that won’t go away:

  • Esc/Escape key - Some web browsers have some protection against these popups, where pressing the escape key, on the top left of most keyboards, is enough to bring down the window so that it can be closed.
  • Ctrl + Alt + Del - The old “exit anything” combination still works for something like this. But in most modern Windows instances, it will bring up a menu. On that menu there should be an item that says Task Manager, click that one. Then you should be able to click the task of your web browser (Edge, Chrome, or Firefox usually), and then click End Task. When prompted on the next opening of it, do not restore the session. Click the “x” instead.
  • Reboot - Rebooting the computer may work and is usually worth it to try. Any ill effects from rebooting, like possible corruption if it happens during a file-write process is usually better than letting a scammer right into your computer. Especially if you made good backups.

Too good to be true

In some cases scammers may lure or get money out of folks by offering something that can seem too good to be true. Like a long lost relative who left a lot of money to you, or someone pretty or handsome with a lot of similarities who needs money for airfare to visit you.

Even something as trivial as a free iPhone giveaway, can be a scam. Which is when one should be really looking at it and doing research on it.

Times may change

As with most things in the computer and tech world, it is subject to change very quickly. These were some tips for the scams I hear of the most, currently.