HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The Better Business Bureau's Consumer Action Line seems to ring off the hook with people concerned about the "imposter" scam. While those with the BBB work to answer those calls, they are also handling concerns over ransomware.
"When someone calls you out of the blue and claims that they are from a government agency,maybe the IRS, it could be the US Treasury, US Marshal's, even the Alabama Attorney General's Office claiming that you owe money or you're facing a stiff penalty, and if you don't pay immediately by wire transfer or green dot money card, you are going to be arrested," Elizabeth Garcia said while explaining the imposter scam.
Garcia said nowadays scammers are getting personal. They will spoof the caller ID, showing up as a recognizable agency. Then, the con on the other end of the phone coerces the victim to send them money they owe.
"Often they will use fear as a tactic," Garcia said. "Especially in the case of, let's say the IRS or US Treasury or US Marshal's, people are afraid of getting in trouble."
But, the phone call messages are a lie. Garcia said scammers tactics are working, unfortunately.
"Over the last quarter we've had increasing number of calls," Garcia said. "In September, we had over 40 calls."
But, there are ways you can protect yourself. Do not transfer any money and never give away your personal information.
"This is a scam, it will always be a scam, these agencies will never call you on the telephone to demand payment under threat of arrest," Garcia said.
Not long ago, we only worried about hackers targeting our computers with viruses. Now, scammers are targeting the operating system on your smart phone.
"It can happen on desktops, laptops, cell phones, those are the particular devices that are most vulnerable," Garcia said.
There's a new scam hitting the World Wide Web and it's called ransomware.
"It will say your computer has been hacked and you will have to pay us any number of dollars," Garcia explained. "But, you have to pay this particular amount in order for us to give you the code to unfreeze your computer."
Wavelink Inc President & CEO Tamela Gibbs is all too familiar with ransomware.
"They just said, I was surfing the web, it was another small business in town," Gibbs explained. "They said I was trying to make a purchase. In fact, I was trying to cost compare somethings on some common websites like Amazon and Best Buy, and on the next tab they clicked, it came up on a box that said you've been affected with the Zeus Trojan, please follow these directions, click this link to find out payment instructions."
Gibbs said the scammers will tell you your computer has been compromised, you have had malware, malicious software, installed on your computer usually by a Trojan.
"A trojan hides, and then when you click on something, or when you least expect it, pops up," Gibbs said.
Gibbs said prevention is the only way to make sure you're protected from ransomware.
"Antivirus does not prevent it," Gibbs said. "You have to have malicious software protection."
"The key way to stay away from ransomware is to never click on any links from websites, emails, organizations, texts that you don't recognize," Garcia said. "If you follow that one rule, that will help protect you."