Tech-support scammers pick on wrong person

Published: Friday, May 16 2014 10:43 p.m. MDT

Jane Driggs, president of the Better Business Bureau of Utah, was the target of a tech-support scam. Unfortunately for the scammers, she was onto them.

Mike DeBernardo, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Oops. Scammers claiming they were Microsoft tech support called the wrong home this week.

Instead of getting someone who might fall for their scam, they called the head of the Better Business Bureau of Utah.

In a scam that has recently surfaced in more than a dozen states, the scammers call, identify themselves as contractors for Microsoft and claim you have a virus on your computer that they can fix — if only you give them remote access.

Jane Driggs, president of Utah's BBB, said she answered an 800-number that read “AVS Services” on caller ID on Wednesday night, and a heavily accented man who identified himself as Ron told her that her computer was infected with malware, spyware and “lots of errors” and that “crash was imminent.”

He then passed her to his supposed supervisor named Peter, Driggs said, who told her the same thing, as did that man’s alleged boss. He said his name was Mark Rogers.

Driggs said the third man instructed her how to bring up a screen on her computer that showed a number of warnings and errors.

“They were yellow and red,” Driggs said with a chuckle. “We all know yellow and red are bad.”

Rogers then told her they could fix the problem for $149 if she gave them her credit card number and allowed them to gain access to her computer by downloading a program.

Driggs, who was initially taken by surprise by the call but generally enjoys a conversation with any scammer, began searching online during the conversation and discovered that what she was seeing on her screen was naturally occurring on all computers.

“I said to Mark, ‘This is a scam. I know it’s a scam. You should be ashamed of yourself,'" she said.

The man quickly hung up, Driggs said.

“They always hang up,” she said with a laugh. “They can’t risk it.”

Driggs may have been quick to realize she was the target of the scam, but others could be vulnerable if they are not very computer savvy, she said.

“Who knows what my mom would have thought?” Driggs said.

After gaining access to personal computers, scammers can find accounts used in online banking, Facebook and other social media logins and even a family picture, which can immediately be turned around and sold for identity theft purposes.

Driggs said she believes the men were operating out of a place where lots of people were on the phone perpetrating the scam at the same time — what she described as a boiler room.

“The more calls they make, the more money they’re going to make and the more information they can glean, which they can then sell,” Driggs said.

In addition to Utah, other recent cases have surfaced in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

In some of the calls, the scammers claim they are certified with the Better Business Bureau, Driggs said.

She recommended calling and double-checking those kinds of claims, and reporting phone numbers linked to such scams to the Federal Trade Commission.

EMAIL: aadams@ksl.com

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