Ever gotten a call from Microsoft, Apple, or Amazon about your computer being infected or a recent purchase you made? While computers have gotten (by many measures, anyway) more secure over the years, for many would-be attackers, the human is now the easiest part of the puzzle to solve. Large, elaborate scams today have been built around the premise of tricking users into divulging credit card numbers, account login info, and other sensitive pieces of information by imitating familiar companies claiming to be reaching out for security purposes. Using some particularly difficult to dismiss pop-up ads, sometimes these grifters will even try to get you to call them directly, with warnings of viruses or other such problems blaring at you from an often-legitimate looking error screen. Others will simply email potential victims directly, using stolen accounts disguised with a quick name change or an email account with an address close to a legitimate one. The tactics used and the avenue taken by these scammers is manifold, but generally, there are a few rules you should stick to.
For one, you can almost universally write-off any phone calls from most of these large companies as being illegitimate – they don’t have the time, resources, or incentives to reach out to you regarding something specific to your computer or account. Secondly, always double check the email address (rather than the name attached) or phone number on any of these messages to confirm it is who it claims to be. Oftentimes, the number or address will be completely wrong, or in more sophisticated cases, it may only have a single letter out of place. The contents of the message may also contain spelling or grammar errors, which (generally) large companies do their best to avoid in contacts with customers. Finally, where possible, contact the company / financial institution / individual directly using a method you can verify to be legitimate. Never follow any links from, or call or reply to any phone numbers or email addresses provided in, a message containing any such notices.
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