Online, text and phone scams are on the rise

Intro – If you have a feeling that you’ve been getting more email, text, and phone call scam attempts during the past year you’re not alone. The Better Business Bureau has also reported an increase in online tech support scams. K R P S’s Fred Fletcher-Fierro has been looking into this and has more.

“Hi, this is an important call, from AT&T regarding your account number 1, 5, 1, 9, 4, 0, 0, 7, 0.” – ATT Recorded Scam Voice Message

Stephanie Garland of the Better Business Bureau

Have you received that recording from what sounds like an AT&T call center recently? If so, you’re not alone. A Southwest Missouri resident recorded that fake call from AT&T recently and provided it to the Better Business Bureau regional office in Springfield. The BBB, probably best known for its Business Accreditation program, works with consumers as a meditator in addition to tracking scams nationwide. Phone calls aren’t the whole way that scammers are trying to fool you. About a year ago, when more of us started working from home, the BBB received an increase in the number of fake online tech support scams. Stephanie Garland, Regional Director of the BBB in Springfield, Missouri explains.

“So people may get a message that’s on their computer that might pop-up, and it says this is Microsoft, this is Windows, there’s a problem, you need to call this number to fix it. And it’s not legitimate.”

The number of online phishing scams through text messages, or phone calls, has mirrored the rise in online tech during the past year. Previous to the pandemic, in 2019, the FBI’s Crime Compliance Center reported that American consumers lost 57 million dollars to phishing scams. These we’re just the reported losses; the actual amount is likely much higher. Also, filtering through who is a scammer and who isn’t has gotten more challenging.

“We’ve actually had consumers send us voicemails, from these scammers and these people can actually impersonate anyone from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, to even ICloud, telling you your iCloud is compromised and maybe you have an Android device, and you don’t even have an iCloud.”

Scammers can spoof businesses’ phone numbers, including the Better Business Bureau’s, making it increasingly difficult for consumers to truly understand who they can trust when more of us are doing less business in-person. Using caller ID is one way to see who’s calling before you pick-up. When your mobile phone rings and says anonymous or unknown caller, let the call go to voicemail. If it’s a legit call, you can call them back. Staying safe and protecting yourself, whether on our phones, computers, or laptops, all comes down to how often you update your systems.

Make sure that you’re updating your mobile phones settings, software; just do that automatically. If you’ve got a computer or laptop, Ipad, make sure that you’re using security software and then of course, please use multifactor authentication and backup your data, so in case you’re hacked, you’ve got your data safe and secure.”

Chris Kays, Owner and CEO of F1 Computer Solutions in Springfield, Missouri, says that he’s seen a rise in the number of people in the past year calling and wanting information about Virtual Private Networks, better known as VPN’s for their homes.

“People have been reaching out to us; from our standpoint, we’ve probably had an increase of 25 to 30 percent of people just want to learn about security.”

Chris Kays of F1 Computing Solutions

He’s also seen an increase in the amount of scam email traffic since the pandemic started. Email scams’ complexity has increased with many scammers using the official company logo, formatting their scammer website very similar to the company’s actual site. Chris’s clients reach out to F1 regularly to inquire which emails are from legitimate businesses and which aren’t.

“Scams and stuff like that, email scams are still a big, big deal, especially with the pandemic they are reaching, trying to tug at people’s hearts. And everything, so we get a lot of our clients, they’ll send us emails and ask us, you know, it’s this a scam, is this phishing?”

F1 Computer Solutions started in 2005 out as a computer and server support company for small to medium-sized businesses. As the technology sector changed, so did F1, to a Managed Services business model, working with businesses to provide IT strategy planning and support, among other services. Amid the considerable job loss that the pandemic has brought to millions of US workers, doing the same time, F1 has seen its work increase.

“In a way, I kind of feel guilty because we’ve actually grown, grown substantially from the pandemic, because of that, and we almost feel guilty because of all the businesses that have suffered from it. But we also feel very good about being able to help the people that are still in business. And being able to help them stay secure and to be able to work from home.”

If you’ve been hacked, whether it’s on your phone, laptop, or desktop computer Chris recommends disconnecting from the internet or turn the device off and reach out to a computer professional for help. And if you get a phone call, that sounds like this.

“Hi, this is ATT regarding your account number.” – Recorded ATT Scam Voice Message

Protect yourself and don’t pick-up; it’s probably a scammer.

For K R P S, I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro in Webb City

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