Retired East Tennessee nurse falls victim to online ‘support scam’

Ruby received a notice on her computer from a scammer that she was owned $250.

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Internet services make it easy for us to pay bills, shop and make online reservations. However, it’s also convenient for cyber criminals.

A retired nurse innocently fell victim to a scammer. She thought the call was legitimate and didn’t know it was a hoax.

The Federal Trade Commission reports thousands of people have fallen victim to what’s called the “support scam.” When this hoax first became known, tricksters claimed they were from Microsoft, but now the name of choice is TeamViewer. They hooked the unsuspecting 86-year-old by saying she was due a credit.

In early September, Ruby, was at her desktop computer. The retired nurse and grandmother asked for her last name to be withheld. As she was scrolling through the internet, Ruby said she received a pop up message with a prominent dollar figure.

“I opened up the internet and the only thing that was there was $249 up here,” she said.

In the top right corner, it said she was due a $249 credit. Ruby said she soon was on the phone with a man with a thick accent who said his name was Shawn Davis with TeamViewer, which provides software for internet remote access and support.

“And they say, ‘Give us a few minutes and type in the $249 and you’ll have your rebate.’ And I began to type in $249. As I hit close to the decimal, they said, ‘Oh, you have taken two thousand and some odd dollars out of our account,'” said Ruby.

With that information, Ruby was told she immediately had to correct her error. They said she had made a mistake and owned them money. They then gave her specific directions to follow.

“You need to go to Walmart and get gift cards,” said Ruby.

Since Walmart is near her home, she followed the directions. With two credit cards, she purchased three gift cards, each for $1,000. Still unaware that it was a hoax, Ruby was directed to provide numbers from the cards, which she did.

Ruby was unaware the scammers had grabbed hold of her computer. The first way to spot the scam is if they call you. Secondly, the caller claims he’s from a support company like TeamViewer or Microsoft, but they’re really not. Thirdly, they have a thick foreign accent but use a name that is usually of Western origin, like Shawn Davis.

The Federal Trade Commission says this scam is global, relatively new, and does not appear to be losing steam.

Ruby wanted people to know how easy it is to be victimized by this scam. Since she bought gift cards, her credit card providers say they will not refund her money. She has lost $3,000, a costly lesson.

“Don’t respond to anyone on the computer or the phone that you don’t know. Period,” she said.

TeamViewer says there have been continuous instances of malicious use of its software, of scammers attempting to sell their services by claiming your device is infected with malware or you’re owed a credit. TeamViewer says it is not associated with or responsible for any of these instances and that it takes the privacy and security of their customers’ personal information very seriously.

The advice is to be careful with unsolicited phone calls and do not grant access to your PC to anyone you do not know or trust.

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