PSA: Warn your parents and grandparents about computer scams!


Something weird happened today and I feel like I should do a quick public service announcement.  My dad called me this morning and said “some guy from India called me and said that my copy of Windows is out of date and I need to update it.  He was saying I needed to disable Firefox and then ht certain buttons.  I told him I needed to check with my son before I did anything.  He said he’ll call back in a few hours to walk me through the process.  So…do I need to do this?

My dad is 65 and he never even used a computer until about 5 years ago.  Now he’s online all the time and he loves it.  But he’s a perfect target for scammers; every few months he’ll call me and say something like “A box popped up on my computer and it says I have a virus and I need to pay for Super Virus-Guard 3000, what should I do?” or “I got an email that says my facebook page is under attack and this company will save it if I send them my password, is this for real?

When I first set up my dad’s computer I told him “people are going to try and scam you.  Never believe anything, anyone says to you.  People will email you and people will call you.  They will want your money or your passwords.  Always assume that everything is a scam.”

But no matter how many times I warn my dad about scammers, he still gets concerned when people call him or email him and tell him there’s something wrong with computer or one of his accounts.  So here is my PSA:  If you have a parent or grandparent that uses a computer, sit them down and tell them about all the scammers that are out there.  And then (and this is the important part) make them promise you that they will call you if….

  1.  A stranger asks for their personal information.
  2.  A stranger asks for their password or login information.
  3.  They get a suspicious bill or credit card charge.
  4.  Strange pop-up boxes start appearing on their computer
  5.  Some tries to get them to do ANYTHING on your computer
  6.  You get contacted by someone who claims to be from IT, Windows, Microsoft, Google or Facebook.

Scams work because the SOUND like they might be legit.  Your parents and grandparents are probably nice people who don’t want to be rude to someone who might be trying to help them.  So you need to play the “bad cop” roll for them.  They don’t have to say “no” to a scammer.  They just need to say “let me check with my son/daughter first.”  That right there should be enough to scare away “Ronald” from New Delhi.

By the way, here’s an article about the scam my dad almost fell for today.  It sounds pretty common so you may want to specifically warn folks about it.