"It's scary," says Missouri woman targeted by computer scammers

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COLUMBIA - When Donna Lenger heard someone on the phone asking for $1,000, she knew she was being scammed. Now she's locked out of her computer.

Last week, Lenger received a call from someone she thought was with her computer service provider, but it turned out to be a scammer who was seeking access to her computer.

"After they got in, they said they had transferred money to my account and wanted money back because they sent too much," Lenger said.

In addition to the money, she said the caller ordered her to send iTunes gift cards.

"When I refused to do that, they locked up my computer," Lenger said.

Lenger unplugged her computer and turned it back on two days later. It asked her to put in a password she did not know. She said she now has to get someone to fix it.

"It's an expense, and it's scary because when they were in there probably working on the computer, they probably were downloading everything on my hard drive," Lenger said.

Nate's Computer Repair co-owner Jessica Canfield said her store sees this tactic from scammers on a weekly basis.

"The best defense is really the education and the knowledge of what to look for and what to expect," Canfield said.

She said a pop-up saying your computer is infected will most likely appear on your screen. It will ask you to call a 1-800 number.

"The 1-800 number should be a real indication that something's not quite right," Canfield said.

Canfield said there isn't just one group conducting these scams. She said it's a new trend where people try to take advantage of others by posing as reputable service providers wanting to remove computer viruses.

Canfield had advice for people who realize someone is trying to scam them.

  • Disconnect the call as soon as possible
  • Do not give them any money
  • Do not let them have access in to the computer

But Canfield said if someone does let the scammer get remote access into their computer, there are some things they can do to keep information secure.

  • Run a virus scan
  • Bring it in to a computer repair shop
  • Change account passwords

Canfield said Nate's Computer Repair has only seen the scam on Windows PCs, but that doesn't necessarily mean it won't happen on a Mac.

Lenger said the same thing that happened to her happened to her daughter-in-law's mother in Hallsville and an acquaintance in Versailles.

"They're very persuasive," Lenger said about the scammers.

She said she canceled her credit cards as a precaution, and she hasn't noticed any strange purchases so far.

"It's just scary to think that they have access to all the information that, you know, I have on my computer," Lenger said.