Creston’s Lectric Avenue Electronics warns of online scammers after spike in hacks

In the past week, 10 to 12 customers have called in or stopped by the store requiring assistance after their gadgets were corrupted and bank accounts compromised

Tech specialists at Creston’s Lectric Avenue Electronics are warning residents to be cautious of deceiving web-browser and text message scams, after experiencing a recent spike in customers frequenting the store’s services after falling victim to such frauds.

In the past week, Lectric Avenue managers René Steenkamp and Ian Richardson said that 10 to 12 customers have called in or stopped by the store requiring assistance after their gadgets were corrupted and bank accounts compromised by hackers posing as Apple or Microsoft technicians.

“We’ve been seeing quite a few the last few days is the message that pops on your screen, saying your computer is infected or there’s a problem with your computer, phone this number,” said Richardson.

These pop-up messages that appear on someone’s computer, he noted, are all browser-based redirects and are not actual virus alerts stemming from the computer system.

“We’ve literally had four or five people between yesterday and today,” he said on March 2. “They phone these people and they give them remote access to their computer.”

When someone calls the number listed on a pop-up message, Steenkamp said that hackers posing as tech support will ask the victim to install a remote access software, such as AnyDesk or TeamViewer, to give them the ability to access someone’s computer from a remote location.

“They download this onto their computer and then (hackers) explain to them – very nicely – how to give access,” said Steenkamp. “People think this technician is logging in remotely to fix this problem. Once they’re in, they’re in.”

Richardson gave an example of one resident who watched as hackers posing as technicians sifted through her bank accounts after she gave them permission to access her computer remotely via AnyDesk.

“They were about to take money, and she got a little worried at that point. She phoned me, and I told her to shut it down right now and phone the banks,” he said.

Then there are the mobile phone scams, where hackers posing as Netflix, Puralator or FedEx representatives send text messages to people asking them to tap on a link to process a payment or confirm a delivery.

“They actually grab your passwords for your accounts and stuff. They take every single cent from those accounts. Every single thing, and it’s rampant,” said Richardson.

While these scams come in waves, he said the recent spike in cases is the worst he’s seen in a long time.

Steenkamp noted that many of the victims as of late are seniors who are over the age of 55.

“(Seniors) don’t doubt these people because they believe that these people know much better than they do. They trust these people they phone,” she said. “People need to understand that these (hackers) are involved in an arms race. They get better, they get cleverer.”

Steenkamp and Richardson’s advice? Reboot your computer, and don’t click on any links or phone any numbers.

“When in doubt, just phone us. It’s so much easier with a local phone call than just calling a scammer,” said Richardson. “If the error still pops up, phone us. Bring in your computer, let’s look and see what the issue is.”

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