Caution: the kind voice on the line could be up to no good

We received another suspect call, as do so many every day.  His voice was kind and patient.  His goal? To remote into our computer.  This is not good.  Listening to him was disturbing.  Not because I saw him as a threat but because I know he would have been able to manipulate many others out there who may not be tech savvy or who may have cognitive impairments or who may just be so inexperienced with deceivers that they may not realize what is happening and comply with his requests.

Use the following example of what happened to us as a reminder to keep your guard up at all times when communicating with strangers who are trying to reach you in this digital age.

  • The call came in from this phone number:  282-648-2794 and the caller id was a long series of numbers instead of an actual business name.  Phone numbers are easy to mask so this could or could not be the callers actual phone number.
  • The caller was a very sincere and patient young man with a thick accent, it sounded like an Indian accent.
  • He began the conversation with something creepy.  He made a comment that we had been on our computer yesterday.  This is something he would have no way of knowing.  But we replied yes.  This was his way of determining if we did or did not have a computer in our possession.
  • He then asked if we were the only ones that used the computer, this is his subtle way of determining if the computer is being used for business or personal use.
  • He then asks us to visit a web site and download software.  What he wanted us to download is software from alpemix.com in order to gain remote control access to our computer.  If you do an internet search of alpemix you will see that this is remote control software and it has been used in phone scams for many years.  I do not know the history of alpemix so I cannot say at this time if it is a software of good intent that is just unfortunately the software of choice of scammers or not.  Either way, the scam goes like this:  you download the alpemix software, the caller remotes into your machine and releases malware or viruses, your computer then shows you have malware or viruses, the caller then says that for a fee he will repair your computer.
  • We kept this caller on the phone so long pretending to be inept computer users who could not reach the alpemix.com site, that the caller finally gave up, said something so disgusting that it cannot be repeated and hung up on us.

If you think you have people in your home who would believe a caller like this, sit down and go through this scenario with them.  Encourage them to immediately disconnect the call.  Not engaging with the caller is the most successful strategy and then use features on your phone to block the call so hopefully you will not receive another call from the same people (many phones have call blocking features now and this is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of them).

Avoid engaging or arguing with the caller.   This will in no way change the trajectory of their behavior.  Make no mistake, you are dealing with a criminal over the phone.  We can only hope that they will suddenly take up a sweet hobby like knitting or cliff diving and be so preoccupied by it that they forget to show up for work at their job which is obviously a company called something like “Phone Scam Surplus Manufacturers of the Free World Organization”.  Just hang up the phone and go on your merry way:)

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Simple Methods to Avoid Getting Scammed at Home

Phone and Email

By default, many humans find it extremely difficult to ignore a ringing phone when they do not recognize the phone number on caller id and to ignore emails when they do not recognize the sender of the email.  For some reason, the unknown communication represents the Iron Lotus of all communication, in our minds it is a communication that could change our lives, we cannot ignore it.  Criminals know this, that is why they call your phone and send you emails and in return many criminals often leave the encounter with cash from your pocket or data about you that they may later use to obtain your valuables.

  1. Avoid answering your phone if you do not recognize the number.  By answering the phone, you will divulge information about yourself that you do not want a criminal to have.  You don’t think you will, but just by answering the phone you’ve already given them your sex, possible race, and that your phone number is valid.  All of this is revealed even before the criminal begins asking you questions and trying to trick you into believing they are contacting you for a legitimate purpose. Avoid all of this by ignoring the call.  If the calls become frequent, then just have the number blocked.
  2. If a caller keeps you on the line for an extended period of time asking you confusing questions or tries to initiate an argument with you, then this is your queue that you are dealing with a suspicious individual.  End the call immediately.  Based on what was said in the conversation determines your next step, if they were trying to scam you out of confidential information and/or money, contact the Federal Trade Commission immediately: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0076-phone-scams.  But if they actually threatened you or your family, you will want to contact your local police department.  Make sure you clearly document the conversation and their phone number before passing the information onto the FTC or police, they can’t do anything unless you provide facts, date, time, etc.
  3. Avoid opening and replying to emails from people you do not know.  Those links at the bottom of emails that instruct you to “click here to unsubscribe from this email list” are only legitimate when it comes from a reputable company, if the link is at the bottom of a malicious email, then, when you click on it, you are just telling the criminal your email address is valid and the clicking action may initiate malware.  Avoid all of this by ignoring the email (flag it as spam, delete it, etc).

Disposing of Documentation

Avoid throwing away any paperwork that contains information about you, your family, your friends and your investments (name, address, phone, email, account numbers, etc.).  Paperwork containing this information should be shredded or burned in your fireplace on a regular basis.

Storing Documentation

When storing paperwork that contains information about you, your family, your friends and your investments, secure the paperwork at all times.

  1. If the paperwork is on your computer, then your computer must be password protected and your anti-virus software and firewall software need to remain up to date.
  2. If the paperwork is a hard copy in your home, then you need to secure it out of site in a locked desk, file cabinet or safe.

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