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By Guy Martin
owner of Control-Alt-Delete 

Not what you think

Tech Talk


March 16, 2024

So, there you were reading your email, catching up on work or reading about family and friends. Then you saw something that piqued your interest. Something that said it was a spreadsheet, or a receipt or something similar. You click to open the file to see what it was and "BAM!" your computer got a virus that locked up your files. A pop-up message appeared that said you need to call to unlock your computer, as now it was infected with ransomware.

Guy Martin.

The good news is that gone are the days of viruses on our computers being the biggest threat to our files and security. These types of threats are not as prevalent as they used to be. One of the biggest reasons is that it was not lucrative enough for cyber-criminals. Antivirus software was able to combat viruses efficiently, as they were an actual infection of the computer's operating system.

So, what is arguably the biggest threat to our online world today? It's called phishing (pronounced fishing). And most likely every one of us has been hit with a phishing event. What is phishing, you ask?

Phishing attacks start in a variety of ways, including a phone call, text message, social media posts, or links on a webpage, like in a news article or something you were searching for. The subject of these attacks typically indicates that you will be billed for something that you didn't order, or that your bank account was debited for something you didn't approve, or that someone was trying to transfer or hack your financial accounts.

Commonly, when this happens, a pop-up screen appears and tells you that your computer has been infected and that you need to call the number that appears on your screen right away as they have noticed that it is infected. It usually has a reputable name on it like Microsoft, Norton Antivirus, etc. Everything will look official, right down to the logos for the companies they claim to be. And, to make you even more frightened, they will include a loud audio message that your computer is infected and must call them immediately to not lose your data.

Why is phishing so successful? Because it relies on our fears to succeed. Once you get a message like this, indicating that your money is being spent or stolen, it's frightening and we panic. That is what makes us susceptible to this type of scam. We are all to willing to call the number given to make sure we get that money back they claim was taken, or to stop the infection that is threatening the safety of our documents and pictures on our computer. Fear is the power of the phishing scams!

So, what can we do when this happens? The best thing, is to slow down and breathe. Yes, that's it. Sounds simple right? But, honestly, it's the best thing to do, so that you can let your mind stay calm and think rationally, and not give in to the panic and fear that fuels the phishing scam. Once you do this, then you can follow a few steps to figure out what is really happening.

First: Never call the number that is listed on any message you receive. A key thing to know is that no one can legally monitor your computer. So, reputable companies like Microsoft, Norton, McAfee, etc., do not monitor if you have a virus or if you were billed for anything. They just do not do that. Antivirus companies only provide you with the program to try and keep your computers safe.

Second: Turn off your computer if you cannot close the screen that pops up. To do this, hold your power button down for 15 seconds, even if your screen goes blank.

Third: Call your financial institution or log onto your bank account to make sure no transactions have actually been made. You will find that odds are, nothing has happened. You can also change your passwords for your online financial institutions to be extra cautious. It's always good to keep those phone number handy in case you have to call them.

I will cover more on this subject in my next article, as it is such a prevalent scam that I deal with everyday. You can reach out to me if you would like more information or need help with this issue.

Please, feel free to call, email or come in and visit my shop if you need help or have questions. I sure would love to meet you, even if just to shoot the breeze for a few.

For more information call Guy Martin at (661) 972-0448, email or visit 20424 Brian Way, Unit 4 Tehachapi.


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