Alleged scammers ‘selling’ fake antivirus software

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office is warning West Virginians of an alleged technology scam.

Morrisey says his office has received over 100 calls from consumers across the state reporting the scam. Consumers report they have received a voicemail claiming to come from a major technology company. The caller allegedly demands payment of up to $399 for antivirus software the consumer supposedly purchased, according to the Attorney General’s office.

“Consumers should use caution whenever they receive a suspicious call like this, particularly if they don’t have a prior relationship with the company in question,” Attorney General Morrisey said.

“Look for red flags such as a machine-generated voice, unusual word choices or improper grammar. Most importantly, never hand money over to a scammer or allow them to hack your computer and cause havoc.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

The phone calls often feature a robotic voice, Morrisey says. In several instances, the voice allegedly informs the recipient, “This is to inform you that we have renewed your antivirus security for the upcoming one year and we have charged you $399 and in 24 hours you will see a charge from [company]. If you want to cancel and want a refund, then please call on this number: 1-213-822-7257. Cancellation should be done within the 48 hours upon receiving this cancellation call. Thank you. This is Harris Parker, customer relationship manager.”

Consumers who return the voicemail speak with someone claiming to represent the nationally known technology company and urges the consumer to make payment via credit card, gift card or by providing their bank account information. Morrisey says the alleged scammer may also seek to gain access to the consumer’s computer if payment is refused. For example, they might claim the need to remove the supposedly-installed virus repair program since the consumer is refusing to pay them. 

The Attorney General says there are other versions of the scam involving fake technology company representatives demanding payment and access to the consumer’s computer to remove a nonexistent virus. If the consumer falls for the alleged scam, they end up giving away cash and access to hack into their system, placing sensitive data at risk, according to Morrisey’s office.

The scammer may also use a “spoofing” tactic to mask the phone number from which they are calling and make it appear that it comes from another source. Morrisey says in a recent incident, a consumer received a scam call even though they do not own a computer. At least one victim has sent the scammers $1,000 in gift cards. He says that person has filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. 

The Attorney General says consumers who receive these calls should visit the technology company’s legitimate website and call its legitimate customer service or billing phone number to confirm the validity of any such voicemail, call or email.

Consumers also should safeguard sensitive information such as computer passwords, network information and financial information, the Attorney General’s office says. Creating strong passwords can be a good line of defense against potential hackers.

Anyone who believes they are a victim of this or any other scam can call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.

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