We’ve had a steadily rising number of customers in the past 6 months who come to us with variations on a theme.
“I got an alert that something was wrong with my computer, so I called the number and they found [x] things wrong with it. I paid but my computer still isn’t acting right!”
“My email wasn’t working so I called Yahoo!/gmail/etc and they said my computer was completely broken!”
Invariably, these are scams. And they are scams designed to take a lot of money from you, as well as gaining sustained access to our computer, so we wanted to take a moment here and mention a few golden rules. You may have seen these before but it’s always good to have a refresher.
1) Apple will NEVER send you unsolicited email telling you that your account will be restricted, or that it has been locked, or asking for detailed information or to confirm your payment method. If you receive an email like that, and you have any concerns, go DIRECTLY to appleid.apple.com — never click on and follow a link in that email. The same is true for bank emails, paypal emails, etc. It’s always a good rule of thumb to go directly to the source if you’re concerned.
2) Popups warning you that your computer has been infected with malware or that you are being monitored by the FBI and giving you a number should be ignored. Never call the number listed. If you are unable to close the window (these are often scripted in such a way to have no close option), get in touch — we can usually get you out of that.
3) If you receive a phone call from someone telling you that there’s something wrong with your computer, hang up. These are increasingly common scams — they actually will usually begin by telling you your windows machine is loaded with registry errors and if you say you have a Mac they’ll switch tactics. We’ve found that they’ll often have you open up Console, which is a diagnostic log of your computer, and say every entry on it is a virus or flaw. In truth, Console contains all logged messages by the system, so there will always be a list there.
4) Free email services like Yahoo and Gmail typically don’t have phone support for non business customers. If you search for a support number, you’re getting a third party. For those services, help is typically online only — start at gmail.com or yahoo.com and look for help options. Also, be cautious of the first result in a google search — if it’s shaded yellow, it’s an ad, not a search result.
Additionally, while Macs are resistant to viruses, we’ve seen a rise of adware/malware like Genio and Installmac. In our experience these are coming from downloading things like Adobe Flash from places other than Adobe’s website (in fact, the best link is get.adobe.com/flashplayer). They’re sneaky programs that in some cases can’t be uninstalled with a simple drag and drop to the trash. They’ll do things like redirect your homepage, insert ads on webpages where they wouldn’t normally be (like www.google.com). If you suspect your computer has any of these programs, bring it in and we can check and remove it for you. To avoid getting those kind of programs, make sure you’re only ever downloading programs from a trusted place. If you need the newest version of flash, for example, you want to make sure you are on adobe’s own website (get.adobe.com is safe, for example, as its main domain is www.adobe.com).
And then there’s MacKeeper. MacKeeper is a constant headache for us, and I could tell you a million reasons why to avoid it, but I’ll just point you Peter’s iMore article about it. For general users, Macs don’t need any sort of anti-virus or cleaner software, and much of what is out there is similar to MacKeeper — a program designed to get you to pay for service.
If you are ever unsure about keeping your Mac safe, or you suspect you’ve fallen victim to one of these scams, come on in to Mashpee or Hyannis. We’ve seen it all. We can help. But before you even come in, the very first thing to do is to change your passwords. For the most safe option, enable Two Step verification wherever available.