Byte Me Article 117 – Computer scammer shreds couple’s data

Computer Scammer Shreds Couple’s Data

This week we have a shocking story provided by an elderly couple from Gracemere who came to us mid-week after a very bad experience.  In this case they had received a phone call from a lady claiming that she was from Telstra (this is a different approach to claiming that they are from Microsoft).  The ‘Telstra’ lady claimed that their computer had viruses (even though it was turned off at the time) and that Telstra needed to get this fixed.

The caller got the customer to turn the computer on and then said that a technician (called Steve Jones) would be able to help once they clicked on a few buttons to give remote access.  The customer went along with this and could see the mouse moving by itself on the screen as well as many windows opening and closing.  Next the caller said that the customer needed to be registered with Telstra and needed to pay $9.95 via credit card.

The customer at this point became suspicious and asked that the charge be simply added to their Telstra bill.  The caller insisted that it needed to be paid via credit card to which the customer suggested that they could go to either the bank or the post office and transfer the money from there.  The caller started to get more insistent and the customer once again refused to offer a credit card number.

2013-03-30 Byte Me Article 117- Malicious Scam

In the next second the caller had hung up on the phone and the computer screen went blank and started rebooting.  As soon as the computer had restarted the customer noticed that all of their screen icons had disappeared – but also so had their data!

This elderly couple brought the computer to us and we ran several data recovery programs to try to recover their data which would normally work just fine.  Except, in this case the villains had really known what they were doing and had deleted the data and had also run a data shredder.  This is specialised software which overwrites the sectors that previously held the customer data by changing their value around 10 times.  This totally erases any residual magnetic history stored in those sectors – resulting in no possible chance of reconstructing the data.

In this case the data consisted of family photos, letters to family members, historical data and verses – none of which was backed up anywhere else.  For the couple involved this was a complete tragedy which involves personal information & photos that they will never get back.  They said to me that they didn’t think someone would want to do this to an old couple and asked what they had gained.

In this case the caller didn’t care less about the personal information – they just wanted to scam the credit card and were prepared to be malicious if they did not get what they wanted.  If the customer had in fact given them the card details then the data probably would have been left alone.  Later on the customer could have called the bank and still cancelled the transaction.

The customer did in fact contact the police over this matter before they came to us – but the police were not able to help.  To me this is another case where common Australian law has not kept pace with technology.  Stolen money could have been replaced and possibly the police could have investigated – but deleted data is not really seen as a crime.  Our legal system can’t put a price on the deleted data (although I think the customer easily could) but if even $10 was taken off the credit card then something could be done.

If you get a phone call about anything to do with your computer do not believe that it is legitimate – do not bother being polite either – just hang up.  No third party (Microsoft, Telstra or even a bank) will ever call you about viruses on your computer. 

Future Byte Me topics can be emailed to [email protected] and Bruce is contactable at Kerr Solutions, 205 Musgrave Street or on 49 222 400.

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