LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) Scammers are getting more and more creative as they try to get to your personal and financial information. A Lakewood resident reports getting a phone call that led her to log onto her computer, then the caller hijacked her computer right before her eyes.
“They got me!,” said Kathy Davis.
Davis said the call came in the evening and the caller identified himself as being from Microsoft Security. He told her her computer had viruses and that if she logged on right then he could clean it up for her. He asked her to go to a certain website, then he took over control.
“And all of the sudden he said, ‘Don’t do a thing. Don’t do a thing. I’ve got control of your computer’,” Davis explained.
The screen started showing error messages, and Davis started getting suspicious. When they asked for money to fix the problem, Davis hung up the phone and shut off her computer.
“That particular scheme is not something I’ve heard about…that’s a new one,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey.
But, he said, it is illegal. Storey said that in the State of Colorado, identity theft is a class four felony.
Davis is not exactly sure what the caller was after, whether he wanted her credit card number, or to pull personal information offer her hard drive or to load unwanted software onto her system, or all of it.
“I realized how computer illiterate I am because I thought I don’t know what they’re getting off of my computer or what they are putting on it,” she told CBS4.
Experts say it’s very possible they were loading software that the computer owner would never see but that they could access again and again.
“They’re able to install key reading software, that means every stroke I make on my computer can be read by that software and then retrieved by the crooks,” said Cary Johnson, Director of Crime Prevention for the Jefferson County D.A.’s office.
Johnson said that prevention is the best method of protection.
“That is why we advise that people don’t store any personal info on their computer… no bank account numbers, no social security numbers, no credit card numbers, those should never be anywhere on a hard drive,” Johnson added.
He recommended that Davis have her computer scanned to see if there is any malicious software on it. She did get a free scan at one electronics store and the technician didn’t find anything. It would have cost money to get a more thorough scan done. Davis was still worried about using her old computer so she went ahead and bought a new one.
One tip that Johnson offered is that when you buy a new computer, keep the old one so you can do personal work, like your tax returns, on it offline. Then you can put it online just for the few minutes it takes to send the return. That way you can have a place to keep your personal information that is not connected to the internet.
This story is an important reminder that businesses and government agencies will not call you on the phone to solve or correct any consumer issue. So if you get a call like this, you know not to take it.
But if you do get caught by a scammer, and it’s likely to happen to all of us eventually, the Jefferson County D.A.’s office offers this brochure called How Can You Recover From Identity Theft?
— Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith