If someone were to walk up to you on the street and ask you for your wallet, would you hand it over?
I’m not talking robbery here. I mean that someone you’ve never met before simply walks up, gives you what sounds like a semi-plausible reason, and asks for your wallet.
Would you hand it over?
Of course not.
And yet when it comes to computers, I hear of people doing much, much worse almost every day.
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The “your computer is causing errors” scam
I am, of course, referring to the increasingly prevalent scam where someone:
Don’t do it.
It’s a scam. It’s a trap. These people are lying to you.
It’s all about trust
Whenever we give someone else access to our computer, we’re placing a tremendous amount of trust in that individual:
- We trust that they know what they’re doing.
- We trust that they have the ability to fix whatever it is that needs fixing.
- We trust that they won’t recommend things we don’t need.
- We trust that, if we’re paying them, we’re paying a reasonable amount.
In short, we trust that they’re really here to help us.
But the trust actually runs much deeper than that:
- We trust that they won’t go poking around on our computer looking at things that aren’t involved in their repair or assistance.
- We trust that they won’t make copies of things from our computer.
- We trust that they won’t steal information from our computer.
- We trust that they won’t install malware that spies on us after they’re done.
- We trust that they won’t do something malicious to our computer and then hold it hostage.
Those scammers? They’ve been known to do all of these things to those who unwittingly trusted them.
Honestly, this applies to anyone whom you’re considering have help you. Be it the techie friend, the computer repair person, or the applications-support person you’ve contacted, you’re placing all that trust in them as well.
Do you trust them?
Make sure you have a clear understanding of the answers to both of those questions before you hand over the keys to your kingdom. If you find yourself waffling on either, consider looking elsewhere for help.
And for pete’s sake, if someone you don’t know calls you and offers to “help”? Hang up!
Actually handing over your wallet is safer
You know, it’s actually safer to hand over your wallet to a stranger than it is to let a stranger take control of your computer.
You know what’s in your wallet.
Even if you get it back, you immediately know what’s missing, and you know what needs to be done. Credit cards need to be cancelled. Replacement ID cards need to be ordered. A new photo of the spouse, kids, and pets needs to be printed.
You know that your new wallet, with your new cards, is completely within your control.
That’s simply not true if someone compromises your computer. Once they’re done, you don’t know what’s missing, you don’t know what’s been added, and you don’t know what’s safe.
That’s a lot of “don’t know”.
Instead, don’t do it. Or rather, make absolutely certain you know and trust the individuals that you give access to your computer.
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