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Tech support scams spiking in Mississippi

The Magnolia State’s chief crime-fighter issued a #WiseWarning about bogus computer repair calls and pop-ups.

That’s not really Microsoft calling. Nor Apple. Nor Norton. It never will be.

Yet computer repair scam artists are bombarding phones and computer screens in North Mississippi, and they’re getting away with it, according to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.

“The division has seen a recent increase in these types of scams, where tech support scammers use pop-ups that resemble security alerts from Microsoft, Apple or other companies,” wrote Mississippi Attorney General Communications Director Margaret Ann Morgan in a news release. “The alerts warn that the user’s computer is hacked or infected with viruses.

“Some pop-ups even feature a countdown clock, supposedly showing the time remaining before the hard drive will be fried, unless the consumer calls a toll-free number supposedly affiliated with one of those big-name companies.”

Morgan and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood warned consumers not to call that toll-free number. Instead, shut your computer down immediately. “The operators (will) instruct you to go to your computer and hit certain keys or links,” Hood said. “When you do this, you are giving the scammers remote access or control of you computer, which allows them to access your personal information and online accounts.”

These computer repair pop-up scams resemble the computer repair phishing calls Cooper Systems warned us about in this #WiseWarning post from February. Cooper Systems is your #WiseChoice for computer sales and repair services. “Customers have told us that someone foreign, usually from India representing themselves as ‘Microsoft,’ called them and said their computer had been hacked into,” said Lee Cooper. “They would talk people into downloading software to allow them to remotely access their computer. The truth is, there never was a problem. In reality, all the impostor does is take the consumer’s money and infect his or her computer.”

Hood said legitimate customer, security or tech support companies will never initiate unsolicited contact with consumers. He also suggested consumers should install ad-blocking software that eliminates or reduces pop-up ads.

“The number one thing people can do to prevent this from happening is to never ever let anyone remote into your machine for any reason,” said both Lee and Lauren Cooper. “Microsoft will never call you for any reason ever, nor will it initiate pop-up ads.

“If you do become a victim to these types of scams, the minute you realize it, change every password to every account, call your credit card companies and carry your computer to a reputable computer repair company like Cooper Systems for inspection and, if necessary, virus and malware removal. If they call you again (which will more likely than not happen) tell them you are going to call the police, and you know they are fraudulent. Nine times out of ten, they will hang up before you get the word ‘police’ out of your mouth.”

Hood asked Mississippians who receive either the tech support scam phone call or pop-up to contact his Consumer Protection Division immediately at 601-359-4230 or 1-800-281-4418.

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