Special Report: Don't Be Next

Ryan Juntti
Updated: February 19, 2019 10:27 PM

Computers are something most of use us in our every day lives. And if you are one of those who does, you can be the target of a scam that tries to get you to buy fake technical support.

Both Minnesota and Wisconsin residents appear to be among the most susceptible, according to the Better Business Bureau.

"These scams are trying to lull you into thinking 'oh, I've got to do something, and I've got to do it right away," said David Vosen, College of St. Scholastica Computer Information Systems Instructor.

Vosen is referring to a computer tech support scam where scammers use scare tactics to try and trick you into paying for phoney or dangerous support.

"It's taking advantage of human vulnerabilities," said Vosen.

The Better Business Bureau says Microsoft receives 12,000 complaints worldwide every month.

Considering their size, Minnesota and Wisconsin are among the top seven states with the most complaints.

Vosen's father-in-law was 79 when he was targeted.

"He had an email with a link, and then he loaded a webpage, and then that webpage unbenounced to him did a pop-up window, but this type of particular scam looked a lot like an antivirus software that he'd used in the past... so he clicked on the link saying please scan my computer," said Vosen.

But it turns out it wasn't scanning his computer at all.

"It gives you some fake number of viruses, and then it says, well we can't clean off these last two or three (another hook), you need to call us or allow us to download remote software, so we can fix your computer remotely," said Vosen.

So that's what his father-in-law did, calling the number, and giving his credit card information. Luckily he realized what was going on and was able to get the charge stopped in time.

"There's a element of embarrassment and shame," said Vosen.

His father-in-law is not alone.

A lawsuit has been filed by former Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson against Minnesota based company Teknicians. 

The lawsuit alleges Teknicans "used computer pop-up windows that appeared on consumers' computer screens, which misled them into believing that their computers were infected with serious viruses or malware." 

The lawsuit says "Teknicians also falsely presented itself as affiliated with hardware or software companies like Microsoft or Netgear."

Furthermore, it says, "Teknicians informed consumers that they must purchase its services or products-by making an up-front payment of up to $300."

"Be it on a daily basis that we see people coming in with these type of scams," said Nicholas Mancini, Downtown Computer Project Manager.

Mancini says scammers also use the phone, even changing the caller ID, so it looks like it's from a trusted company.

"Microsoft, CenturyLink, Charter, they're not really looking to call you, and tell you that you have problems," said Mancini.

Mancini says this is your first clue that something's wrong.

"If you're ever in a situation where a vendor that you're not locally familiar with is calling you, that's your first heads-up that this isn't legitimate," said Mancini.

Whether by phone or fake pop-ups and messages, scammers may ask you to install applications giving them access to your computer.

"They're going to tell you that, 'oh, we've found all these problems, and this and that, and they're going to show you some lists of what they've allegedly found,' " said Mancini.

That's when they will want credit card or bank account information for payment.

And if this isn't bad enough, scammers can install malware to monitor your activity.

"If you do anything with a credit card, if you do anything with online banking, or anything like that, that can all be exposed pretty quickly," said Mancini.

And while these scams imply a sense of urgency, Mancini says don't fall for it.

"If you feel like you want to take a pause, call a professional, ask if this is normal, that would be the best thing to do," said Mancini.

But perhaps the biggest question with so many warnings, why do we fall for it?

"This type of thing traps people," said Vosen. "We want to trust people, we want to think that they have our best interests in mind," he said.

If you do happen to fall victim to this scam, the best thing to do is to try and uninstall the software that the scammers installed, run your Antivirus scans, and contact a professional. 

You'll also want to change your passwords and bank account information from another computer, and watch over your finances.

WDIO News reached out to Teknicians about their response to the lawsuit, but have not yet heard back. 

A spokesperson from the Minnesota Attorney General's office says Teknicians has not filed a response to the lawsuit.


Ryan Juntti

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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