Tuesday, 07 September 2010 13:43

AVG says 'beware of geeks bearing grifts'


If you receive an unsolicited phone call or email suggesting that your PC is infected and offering to help, just say 'no.'

AVG has advised iTWire of a number of scams involving unknown persons claiming to represent the security software company and insisting they scan the target PC for malware.  Strangely enough, they find some and attempt to sell software to repair the problems.

iTWire has previously reported on such scams, but they seem to be getting more sophisticated.

Generically, the scam has a number of forms:

The unsuspecting victim is duped into purchasing a non-legitimate copy of legitimate software (AVG has instances of an Indian-purchased 10-user licence being installed on target PCs in Australia via a telephone scam).

The victim pays enormous amounts of money for remote support using LogMeIn or TeamView (for instance) to 'find' problems.

Other scams have also included the downloading of malware-infested (supposed) anti-virus software.

In addition to claims to represent themselves, AVG also advises of a number of fake company names being used.  These include Tech Optimizers, Techisonline, Support on Click, The Repair Zone, Online PC Doctors, Microsoft Certified Engineers, Windows and Bigpond.

AVG has advised iTWire that These "trust scams" attempt to con people into a service and extract their financial details. The local AVG (AU/NZ) support desk alone is getting several calls a day from people saying they've been contacted by supposed call centres regarding issues with their computer and recommending they download software to fix the problem.

As an example, John reported to AVG (AU/NZ) that he was called by someone from 'Microsoft Support,' who took him through the Windows event viewer and used unrelated errors to make John believe he had a virus. He eventually called their bluff and rang the AVG (AU/NZ) support technicians in Melbourne, Australia to ensure his computer was protected.

But sadly, there are also stories such as Mark's. He received a call, claiming to be AVG, advising that his PC needed checking as several computers in the area were crashing. The scammers who called told him that there were multiple viruses on his computer and that it was about to crash.

Mark was convinced to work through a process that resulted in him 'purchasing' a three-year security service. When he eventually contacted the AVG (AU/NZ) customer service centre, they checked the AVG licence number used during the scam. It was a legitimate licence for the AVG Anti-Virus product, to protect 10 PCs, and was purchased from AVG in India in rupees. Mark has subsequently managed to get a refund from his bank. Many others have not been as fortunate.

Just like every reputable security organisation, AVG will NEVER cold-call customers or potential customers.  Particularly in an attempt to gain remote access to a computer.

Be very cautious about what you give people permission to do on your computer and to whom you give your credit card number. And only install software directly from a trusted vendor's site, never from unsolicited email or telephone instructions.

No one knows how the scammers obtain your phone contact details, but this latest scam highlights the importance of establishing a relationship with a trusted IT vendor. It's better to stop and check than click through and be sorry.

As generic advice to anyone wanting to stay safe online, the following is offered:

'¢    Never click on links in emails when you do not know the sender.

'¢    Always have active Internet Security software protection against viruses and spyware, particularly software that can scan web links.

'¢    Always have your firewall turned on.

'¢    Use spam filtering software to help limit both the amount of unwanted email and the associated risk.

'¢    Call a computer professional if you are experiencing a decline in your system performance, before you lose important information or your system crashes.

'¢    If you get a mysterious call offering to remove software, or a pop-up message offering to sell you software to remove spyware, it is likely you are already infected so call a local computer professional or your security software vendor.

'¢    When dealing with a computer professional, make sure that you know their background and brand reputation. Beware of cash deals and cheap software.

The Federal Government hosts two websites that users should visit regularly for assistance with online safety:

Managed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, SCAMwatch assists people to recognise, report and protect from scams.

Hosted by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy with advice for home and small business users for staying safe online, the Stay Smart Online Alert Service is a free subscription-based service that provides information on the latest computer network threats and vulnerabilities in simple, non-technical, easy to understand language. It also provides solutions to help manage these risks.

Of course if readers wish to report a fraud matter or provide information to police they should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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