‘They can take control of your life’: Experts weigh in on avoiding scammers

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – 8News reached out to experts this week to find out what people can do to avoid scams that pull thousands of dollars from their bank accounts in the blink of an eye.

Last week, Henrico County resident Robin Loyall lost thousands of dollars in a phone and computer scam. Now, that woman’s bank representatives are telling her it looks like she may not be able to get her money back because on paper it looks like she approved the transfer of money to people in Ecuador in India.

Now, Loyall wants to help in making sure the same scam doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“Don’t answer the phone when you don’t know who’s calling,” Loyall said, as she described the difficult lesson she’s now learned.

Loyall was scammed out of more than $7,500 after the caller who claimed to be with Verizon asked her to download a program on her computer because it needed to be fixed.

“They got me big. Big,” she cried.

If the call sounds just too good to be true, Central Virginia Better Business Bureau president Barry Moore recommended to take the caller’s information.

“Take their name and number, talk to a friend and then call them back,” he suggested.

He said nine times out of ten, the caller won’t give a legitimate number to call back.

The caller who scammed Loyall gave her two phone numbers to call back. Loyall tried calling the two numbers back on her cell phone after she realized what had happened, and the person on the other end told her they were working out the situation. When 8News tried calling the two numbers Tuesday, they were disconnected.

Moore said it does not matter someone’s age in a scam. The BBB’s recent scam risk report shows adults 18 to 24 had the highest likelihood of loss at 56.6% in 2020. Moore said in part because he said scammers have gotten so sophisticated. “If it’s too good to be true, they’re too polite, they’re practiced, scripted and rehearsed, to take money or take control of something,” he explained.

If scammers want to get inside a computer, Moore recommends hanging up. “They take control of your computer, they can take control of your life,” he said.

He said don’t trust caller ID, even though it may say a recognizable company like Verizon, as it did for Loyall.

BBB tips to avoid tech support scams

  • Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you are absolutely certain it is the representative of a computer support team you initiated contacted.
  • Legitimate tech support companies don’t make unsolicited phone calls. A popular way for thieves to get in touch with victims is through cold calls. The callers often claim to be from a tech company. Scammers do and they can spoof official looking phone numbers, so don’t trust Caller ID.
  • Look out for warning screens: Nearly half of tech support scams begin with an alert on the victim’s computer screen. This pop up will have a phone number to call for help. Instead, disconnect from the internet and wi-fi connection by  shutting off the device and restart it with an antiviral scan.
  • Be wary of sponsored links. When searching online for tech support, look out for sponsored ads at the top of the results list. Many of these links lead to businesses that scam consumers.
  • Avoid clicking on links in unfamiliar emails. Scammers also use email to reach victims. These messages point consumers to scam websites that launch pop-ups with the fake warnings and phone numbers.

Loyall said she is worried about paying bills this month, but has since gotten her computer system professionally cleaned.

“I got friends who will help me get groceries if I need it and, you know, a few dollars if I need it for gas,” she said.

Henrico Police are investigating the incident.

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