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The first-person story about a retired business consultant’s tech support scam experience, what he did about it.


My name is Don Holmes. I live in Sun City West, Arizona. 

In this community, we're all seniors. After you move in here, even if you don't know anybody, you get to know other people you enjoy doing things with. I use a computer predominantly for email and to get the news. 

One day, a thing pops up and kind of blocks the screen, and says you've got all kinds of viruses in your computer. The design of the pop-up had a Microsoft logo on the top. And they had a number. And I couldn't get rid of this thing on the screen. 

I turned the computer off. I turned it back on-- still there. So I called the number. 

They identified themselves as Microsoft. I had no feeling that there was anything wrong. 

Tech support scams are real. And they're causing enormous consumer injury-- hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars. And that's just based on the FTC's on law enforcement work. 

Just like Mr. Holmes, a lot of people are getting pop-ups on their screens. And often, they claim to be associated with a company such as Microsoft or Apple, giving them lots of credibility. 

They told me they would clear what they considered to be malware in there. In order to clear it up, they needed to get into my computer and have my control of the computer turned over to them. 

So I gave them my password. They went in. The thing came off of the screen. When I went back to my computer the next day, I couldn't access my files. 

You'd never let a stranger into your house. Don't let one into your computer. If you get a pop-up, don't click on a link. If you get a phone call from someone who says your computer security is at risk, don't listen to them. Stop. Take the time to talk to a friend. Talk to a family member. 

When this happened to me, I was a little bit embarrassed. I mean, I consider myself fairly alert. But I was targeted. And I was scammed. 

I didn't really want to talk about this. But I realized that if I didn't talk about it, that if I didn't file the complaint with the attorney general, that if I didn't file a complaint with the FTC, that I would have shrunk into myself. And by talking about it, by talking to all my friends-- 

They're not amateurs, Don. 

--I began to realize that they also started talking. And they started indicating that they had experienced similar things. 

That kind of community, that kind of exposure-- it's not an embarrassment. It's just something that happens when you're a senior. You have to talk about it to other seniors. 

What I would suggest is contact the FTC. They have a website. You can fill out a complaint online. 

We can be empowered with your family, your friends, and other people within your community to try to put a stop-- or at least protect ourselves from these kinds of scams. 

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