In the month of December I received not one but FOUR inquiries from clients of mine in Medfield and Walpole who had received unsolicited telephone calls from a company called Global PC Support. A "technician" from Global PC Support informed my clients that they had seen "suspicious activity" from their computer on the internet and they were calling to fix the problems. They wanted to gain remote access to my client's computers, and in one case actually were allowed in, resulting in a computer that was rendered totally useless until I repaired it. You can read more about their approach here, but the bottom line is that this is a total scam! Please don't fall for it, NO legitimate company is going to call you unsolicited and tell you that there is a problem with your computer.
But how did they know my computer was slow?
One thing these scammers (some of whom represent themselves as being from Microsoft) have going for them is that there is ALWAYS something wrong with a computer. Asking someone if their computer has issues is like asking them if their teenagers ignore them - they are pretty much guaranteed a positive answer! Then they walk their potential victims through a few steps which will bring up an error log that looks scary to the uninitiated, but is actually perfectly normal. The picture associated with this article is my own log, which, as you can see, is full of "critical" errors - and there is nothing wrong with my computer!
There are a lot of reasons why your computer might be slow, and virus infection is only one of them. If you are concerned about your computer's performance please contact me or another legitimate technician for proper diagnosis and repair. And be very wary of anybody who claims to be able to fix your issues remotely, especially if they contacted you or their services show up in an unsolicited link!
So will I ever get a legitimate notice if I have a problem?
Actually, sometimes you will. If your computer is infected with a certain type of very nasty virus, you might get a notice from your internet service provider. I often clean viruses off of computers in my own home. When I do I connect them to my internet connection. Every so often I get an email from Xfinity informing me that one of "my" computers is infected with a bot - one of the worst types of computer infections. If you ever get one of these emails take it very seriously - shut down your computer, keep it disconnected from the internet, and get it to me or another technician to clean ASAP!
If your email has been hacked or used for spam, it's possible you will get a notice from your email provider. They keep tabs on email activity, and will alert you if your account is sending unusual amounts of email. However, if you ever get a notice from Yahoo or Gmail complaining of suspicious activity - do NOT log into your account from any links in the email. There's a possibility that the warning email itself is a "phishing" scam to try to gain access to your email credentials. Always open a fresh browser window and log in to your account through that. And then LOOK for suspicious activity, such as a lot of returned emails that you never sent. If you find suspicious activity your best defense is to change your email credentials immediately, but do it from a known clean computer.
So, how do I know if I really do have a problem?
Different types of problems have different symptoms. Some viruses are glaringly obvious - the FBI has LOCKED your computer and will not unlock it until you send them some money! This is a really common infection these days, and really tough to remove, but believe me, you will know it if you have it. Other infections are more subtle, and yet other issues are signs of Windows corruption or even impending hard drive failure. So, what symptoms should you find worrisome and when should you know you have to call someone? Here are some signs to look for:
- Scanners on your computer that you don't recognize, alerting you of imminent disk or other failure
- Search redirects - you search for something and are directed to a totally different site
- Home page changed to a site you don't recognize
- Excessive popups
- Inability to connect to the internet or frequent connection drops
- Frequent Blue Screens of Death
- Frequent lock-ups and crashes
- Frequent start-up failures
- Extreme slowness, especially when surfing the web
- Antivirus or other software won't turn on
- Antivirus or other software on your system that you don't recognize
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you really should have your computer looked at. However, sometimes symptoms are very subtle indeed. I am happy to diagnose over the phone or via email - if you are concerned compile a list of symptoms and I'll let you know if I think it's worth a visit or not.
Julie Marto, the ComputerMom, has been providing friendly and personal technical support and training in Medfield and neighboring communities for over 16 years. For more information visit http://www.thecomputermom.com/ or like her on Facebook
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