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When Hackers Call, Hang Up
by Nicholas Pell
Low-tech is the new high-tech when it comes to scamming your personal information.
In an era of high-tech security, hackers and scammers are resorting to low-tech methods to steal your personal information. Believe it or not, the telephone is an increasingly common method of hijacking your passwords for nefarious purposes.
Why Hackers Are Using the Phone
Any security method is only as good as the last security breach. In essence, security is a catch-up game. Internet security experts are good at figuring out how to close the last leak and, to a far lesser extent, secure against future breaches.
Still, there's one silver bullet against many security issues: informed and savvy consumers. Gone are the days when 1,000 phishing emails might net scammers a few dozen passwords. These days, even your little old grandmother who's still using AOL dialup knows not to send her password out, even in response to very "official" looking emails.
With high-tech hacking getting harder than ever, scammers are going for more traditional methods.
How Phone Hacker Scams Work
Hackers are using different types of phone calls to scam unsuspecting victims. But there are similarities. In basically every permutation, they're going to pose as a technician from a big company. Microsoft is the usual scapegoat. They'll tell you about some kind of technical problems requiring immediate attention.
And, by the way, they're going to need your personal information to make it happen.
In other variants, the "technician" might ask for remote access to your machine. They might enroll you in some kind of phony protection plan that you'll pay through the nose for. In a worst-case scenario, they'll get you to download malware to steal every bit of information you type into your computer.
None of these scenarios ends up with you not having your personal information compromised.
What You Can Do About It
Exercise precautions by never going along with anyone who calls you. Instead, politely tell the person on the other end of the phone that you'll call them back. Search for the customer service number and give them a ring. A real customer service agent might think you're a bit strange, but they won't object too strenuously. A scammer, on the other hand, will do anything to keep you on the phone.
If it's too late and you feel you've already been scammed, change all your passwords immediately. While you're through doing that, sign up for credit monitoring. You might even consider freezing your credit for six months until you're certain everything is on the up and up.