He figured he’d done something illegal and got caught and now he was embarrassed. The “home page” of his Dell notebook featured an FBI “wanted poster” with his picture. Perhaps he’d been “porn” surfing or downloaded music from a questionable source. He never told us what he had been doing when the wanted poster first appeared. The notice claimed he had been observed committing one or more Internet crimes from a list of illegal acts. He was ordered to pay a $350 fine within 72 hours or a federal warrant would be issued for his arrest and he would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Upon conviction there would a fine of up to $10,000 and a sentence of 5-20 years in federal prison. If he paid the fine, the case would be dropped and his computer would be restored. The method of payment must be “Money Pak.” He complained that he’d paid the fine more than a week ago but the FBI never unlocked his computer. He was surprised when we told him he’d been scammed but happy to know he would not have a criminal record or be listed as a registered sex offender. This “drive by” malware was probably attached to a porn or music site. When it popped up he was easily convinced that he’d committed a crime. His own web-cam was used to create a “mug shot” for his wanted poster.
One lady told us that Norton (her anti-virus provider) contacted her saying that they needed access to her PC in order to clean it up. After an hour they informed her that the cost would be $199 and that it would take another hour to finish the job. Reluctantly she gave them her credit card number but when they finished her PC was a mess. She wanted to know what to do. We told her the first thing to do was cancel the credit card. “Oh” she said, “that’s how I knew it was a scam. While they were fixing my PC, my credit card company called to tell me that my card was being used all over the world. They recommended that I cancel it. I told them to cancel it immediately” she said proudly. “That was weeks ago.” I shook my head and started to say something but she had already figured it out. “Oh my God” she blurted out with her hand to her mouth. “It wasn’t them was it? I didn’t really cancel my card. That’s why they never sent me a new card.” She dashed home to contact her card company.
So what should you do when “Windows” calls to warn you that your PC is infected, when your anti-virus says “click here”, when Yahoo wants your password for a security update, when a third cousin is mugged in Istanbul and needs you to send money, when you get an offer to speed up your PC, when UPS tells you they have a package for you, when Adobe wants you to update “Reader?”
Next week we will talk about anti-virus, anti-spyware, pop-up blockers, firewalls, parental controls etc but the real key to “safe surfing” is PARANOIA. Assume that everyone and everything on the Internet is out to get you. It may be a terrible way to live your life but it is the best way to survive on the WWW.