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Computer pop-up scam hits local screens and wallets

Palos Park Police Chief Joe Miller is warning area residents about pop-up scams that have been hitting computer screens in the village in recent weeks.

“Please be particularly cautious about fake pop-ups telling users that their computers are infected and urging them to call a toll free number for assistance,” said Miller in a written statement.

Several people in the village have reported such pop-ups to police, Miller said. And it is happening elsewhere too.

“In a new twist to the tech support scam, cyber criminals attempt to defraud using another avenue,” Chief Miller said. “The scam is executed while a user is browsing the Internet. In this scenario recently reported to us, a website being viewed provided a link to articles related to popular topics. The user clicked the link and was redirected to a website which produced a window that advised the user’s computer had been hacked.”

He said another window opened containing a telephone number to obtain assistance. “The user reported that all attempts to close the windows were ineffective,” he said.

The chief said that after calling the number for assistance, the user was connected with a “representative” who requested access to the web browser, which is then hijacked. Restarting the computer in an attempt to regain access to the Web produced another message with a different telephone number to obtain assistance.

In another case, police were called to the home of a woman having similar trouble with a computer hacking caused by a pop-up. The “technical support” person she was talking to asked her to hold up a personal check for $399 to the camera before any work was done.

She refused, and turned the phone over to the responding officer. After speaking to the person, who claimed his company “cleans files and installs pop-up blockers,” the responding officer terminated the session and resolved the problem by deleting the application that had been installed.

In a similar incident involving this reporter’s own laptop, the pop-up appeared while the computer was left unattended for about 20 minutes, The pop-up warned that the device was infected with malware, and claimed that using the Google Chrome browser before addressing the issue would cause permanent damage,

When attempts to clear the frozen screen failed, the 800 number was called.

The person who answered the call said he was with “Global Support Tech,” and claimed to be working with Microsoft when asked if it was a scam. He said his company could clean the malware for $200 in a process that would take several hours, but quickly ended the call when his request for a credit or debit card was denied.

As it turned out, simply unplugging the computer and restarting it solved the problem. But the incident served as a reminder to update the virus protection.

it is easy to see how people can get drawn into these scams because their computers are frozen, and the thought of possibly losing everything can be scary.

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