Though we recently added a new Cybersecurity page in our Resources section, we plan to make cybersecurity a continuing topic on our blog for the foreseeable future. Cybercriminals continue to concoct devious schemes for gaining access to your private information and stealing from you. As we learn of various interactions, we will share them with you.
Recently, a number of our clients have been tricked into giving cybercriminals access to their computers. In a typical scam, a pop-up screen will appear on a user’s computer indicating that the computer has a problem that needs to be fixed. A phone number or link will be provided to “access a certified technician” supposedly from Microsoft or Apple. In some schemes, victims will receive a phone call rather than see a pop-up screen. In either case, the fraudster will attempt to gain your trust and offer to help. They will ask to access your computer remotely and soon will be asking for payment for their services (or to “clean up” your computer). Once one of these cybercriminals has access to your computer, they can download a wide variety of your data and personal information.
Microsoft and Apple have explicitly stated they will never proactively contact you to fix computer problems. Treat ALL unsolicited calls or computer pop-ups with extreme skepticism and never provide any personal information.
If you believe that you may have given a cybercriminal access to your computer, Microsoft recommends the following steps (which are also important for Apple users):
· Change your computer password, the password on your email account(s), and the password for any financial accounts, especially those for banks and credit cards.
· Scan your computer for malware or have someone help you do this.
Always remember to surf the Internet cautiously and make sure that your devices have current virus and malware software. If you need help with a cybersecurity problem that affects your financial accounts, please do not hesitate to call us.
We also recently learned of a new IRS tax filing scam. Fraudsters are sending out phony email messages (or contacting you via phone or mail) saying that the IRS has mistakenly deposited a tax refund into your bank account. The fraudster then asks for the money to be returned. This is a scam. The IRS will contact you by mail if you received an erroneous refund and will ask that the direct deposit be reversed by your bank through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) process at your bank.
If you ever have a question about a communication you think may be from the IRS, you can call them at (800) 829-1040 to confirm the information. Unfortunately, tax fraud schemes seem to grow in sophistication each year and it is important to be careful with any communications you receive about taxes.