ABC Communications

Online/Phone Scams and You

You may have heard many similar stories on the internet.  You get a call from someone claiming to be a representative of a legitimate company (such as Apple, Microsoft, CIRA, etc). They tell you that there is either something wrong with a product you own (your computer has viruses!) or that you need to pay ‘X’ amount of dollars in order to avoid further legal action (“This is the CIRA, you owe us ‘X’ dollars and need to pay us!”).

But here’s the thing, all of these organizations will never do that.  In the case of the Apple/Mac scams, they have no way of knowing if your computer is infected by a virus without seeing/using the computer first.  It would be like General Motors Company calling you up out of the blue and saying: “Hey, we heard a funny noise in your engine, come get it repaired right away!” They too, have no way of knowing if there are any particular issues with your vehicle without you having visited a GMC dealership!

There are many ways to ensure the entity you are speaking with is a legal representative of a company. You can always request their phone number and then go to your preferred search engine (like Google or Bing) and look up the phone number provided! Many times these numbers will have been reported by other individuals who have encountered them and wish to warn the public. You can request additional contact details such as their mailing address.  If they aren’t willing to give it out, you shouldn’t trust them.

Also, the very ways in which they wish to ‘assist’ you can be a give-away as to their authenticity.  Many individuals have reported receiving calls from people claiming to be from the CRA!  In these instances, the caller will ring you up, inform you of some exorbitant amount of money that needs to be paid for overdue/un-paid taxes, and then request that you pay by an iTunes card!  Just like any other federal organization, the CRA would contact you via mail (they have your mailing address) and would never request payment via iTunes card – what could the government do with those?

The Microsoft scam is a little more insidious: They will call you up, say your computer has a whole bunch of viruses or other problems and then request you go to a website (non-Microsoft), download a piece of software, provide them the details from the software, and have them remotely connect. At which point, they will lock down your computer and effectively, hold it for ransom until you pay an exorbitant fee to unlock it!  Never let a stranger access your computer, always ensure that you are speaking to a legal representative of the organization by calling them yourself.  This link Click here will show you all the numbers that you can use to contact Microsoft (depending on which country you are from).

Generally speaking, the easiest way to protect yourself from these scam artists is to get their contact details, do a little research online, and ensure the group you are speaking with is authentic! Never give out your payment details over the phone without first confirming you’re speaking with a legitimate representative of the organization, or allow them to control any pieces of your equipment.

Luckily, the Canadian government has created a website to allow us to find out more details on these scams.  You can find further details here

Some recent articles, including this one from Microsoft Show that the number of these calls are on the rise and not showing any signs of diminishing.  Even Apple has its fair share of these calls.

Additionally, CBC did a report on the CRA phone scams not that long ago.
More information can be found here

Make sure to protect yourself from scam artists with a healthy dose of skepticism when you get an unsolicited call: always verify their identity by getting their contact details and calling them back on a legitimate phone number available from the manufacturers/organizations website.