Fake tech support popups and ACH transactions

Be very careful about the pop ups on your computer screen — especially those that tell you that you have a problem and to call a certain phone number for help!

I had a Mac client who had a malware / phishing attack tonight. However, this same scenario could occur in the same fashion on a Windows PC.

Although the man is over 70 years old (age given not to be pejorative but to imply that it could happen to anyone), he visited a website that he never thought could cause problems. Keep this in mind — recently when Yahoo and Forbes magazine started FORCING people to turn off their ad-blockers in order to view their sites — users got malware instantly. You can download malicious software, even on seemingly good websites. Certainly you can become infected from bad websites. There are daredevils out there who visit bad sites and never get infected.

The customer got a pop up on his screen identifying the infection. It was likely just a corrupted browser that a browser reset would have fixed and MAY NOT have been a serious problem. The customer called the number. A man with an Indian accent answered. This whole time, he thought he was talking to Apple support or an authorized provider of Mac-focused support. The agent asked for remote access to the computer. BIG RED FLAG.

The agent asked my customer to use a known support tool that legitimate technicians (included myself) have used before — Team Viewer. The representative turned off various security features on his Mac. BIG RED FLAG. At that point — he asked to be paid by….

Not credit card

Not debit card

But Checking account number and routing number!! Never ever do this. Please — whether it’s a good company or bad — never pay anything with a checking account number on the phone.

Let me digress for a moment. The next time you talk to someone with a brain at your bank, ask them — what safeguards do you have to protect me from an unauthorized ACH or wire transfer transaction (two different types of transactions that use your checking account number). If you still use checks a lot — this matters. At most banks, there is little to no protection!! It’s a sad statement of reality for you. A bad guy or bad firm, with your checking account and routing number, can clean out your account. There is not much you can do about it until after the damage is done. I really think that banks should offer customers a PIN code that any merchant / payee would need before an ACH / wire is processed. ACH is a very flawed system. I don’t think banks do this but it seems like an option to turn off ACH transactions should also be offered.

So back to the customer’s story. This firm wanted his checking / routing number because he wanted to inflict the maximum financial damage on this man. It is much harder to fight against a fraudulent ACH than a fraudulent credit card / debit card transaction.

At that point, my client got his senses back. He realized he wasn’t talking to Apple. He hung up the phone. Bravo!!

We then spent two hours cleaning up his Mac remotely. The customer is located West of the Mississippi. I made sure that he had one of the better, paid anti-virus programs for Mac installed.

This is not a Mac story. It is a warning for all and possibly a homework assignment if you are a regular check writer. Please tell me if your banker’s jaw drops or there is dead silence when you ask about stopping unauthorized ACH transactions before money is withdrawn.