PALM BAY, Fla. - David Hebb, who lives in Palm Bay, said he got a call earlier this month from someone claiming they were with Windows Solutions and that someone had hacked his computer.
Hebb said they told him they could help him fix it, but instead, they tricked him into handing over remote access to his computer.
"He had me type in a certain web page and a code and that would show me all the hacks," Hebb said. "And it showed me 2,900 hacks."
Little did Hebb know, that was all part of a plan to access his personal information.
Hebb said the callers managed to access his bank account and credit card information online, and tried to make a $400 purchase through Best Buy, but failed.
He said they also convinced him to buy $600 in Google Play cards to pay them for services they never did.
"I feel like a dummy," Hebb said.
He said he's not sure how he'll pay his mortgage this month so his family has set up a GoFundMe account in an attempt to help recover some of the funds.
And Hebb's is not alone.
Earlier this month, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced a nationwide sweep to try to stop tech support scams just like that one, and busted a South Florida group claiming they were cold calling consumers, saying their computers were in danger of a virus or hacker attack. Prosecutors claim the American PC Corporation, based out of Sunrise, claimed to be affiliated with well-known tech companies, like Microsoft, and used high-pressure sales tactics to gain remote access to consumers' computers.
But the callers that contacted Hebb may be from overseas.
Hebb said the people who called him all had foreign accents, but the phone numbers they called from all had New York and Georgia area codes.
"Apparently, I wasn't thinking straight and not realizing what was going on," Hebb said.
Once David did, he unplugged his computer, and called News 6 to get help, and to warn others about the fraudulent phone calls.
News 6 took those phone numbers and Hebb's computer to cybersecurity expert Danny Jenkins.
Jenkins works with ThreatLocker.com, a company that helps local businesses secure their computer data.
Jenkins said he sees cases like this all the time.
"Unfortunately he's lost his money," Jenkins said. "The chances of recovering that money are very slim."
Jenkins said his own grandmother fell for a similar computer scheme a while ago.
So Jenkins reached out to the group that contacted Hebb and called themselves "Windows Support" to see firsthand what they were doing.
However, what the callers didn't know was that Jenkins had set up a dummy account, which was designed to be secure from any real data.
Jenkins said the caller fell for the virtual trap and spent hours trying to install remote access software on the dummy account and access personal usernames and passwords.
They even tried to get him to log onto his PayPal Account. Jenkins said the company was most likely from overseas, and not from Microsoft Windows support, like the caller claimed.
"Microsoft doesn't call people to say there's a problem with your machine -- ever," Jenkins said.
But Jenkins said the caller was using real remote access software to try to hack into his system and Hebb's computer.
Jenkins reported it to the company that created the software. Hebb has reported it to both the Florida Attorney General and his local police.
Jenkins had the following warning for anyone with a cellphone or computer:
"If someone is calling you and telling you you have a virus on your computer, they're not legit."
He also offered the following advice:
- If you have a problem with your computer, or if you suspect there's malware, go to someone reputable. Go to a computer store and ask them to scan your machine.
- If you get an email -- even if the email comes from someone you know -- and asks you to click on a link, don't do it, because it is very easy to spoof an email address. Anyone with any kind of email knowledge can do it.
- Never give your password to anyone, or allow them to log into your machine or remote access.
- Nobody is going to call you and tell you you've been hacked or you've got viruses -- its just not going to happen. Just hang up the phone.
News 6 also contacted Google about the Play cards that were used by Hebb, and the company confirms they are investigating the fraudulent activity involving their gift cards.
They also sent the following tips:
- Do not use Play gift cards outside of Play store purchases: Anyone who demands payment by gift cards is always a scammer. It’s a violation of our Terms of Service to use gift cards this way.
- Be wary of messages or sites that ask for your personal information: Be careful if someone is claiming to be from a company with whom you have an account and they ask for info that the business should already have.
- Google will never ask you for payment information over the phone: Always verify the caller’s identity before you provide any personal info.
- Submitting a report will help these agencies investigate the scam and help them to strengthen their countermeasures on varying types of fraud. The following resources can be used to file reports on scams you have encountered:
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