If you receive a phone call about a problem with a computer from someone purporting to be from a familiar tech firm like Apple or Microsoft, security experts say the best thing to do is immediately hang up.

Don’t give the caller the chance to say your computer has been infected with viruses, needs a software update or has been hacked. Don’t give the caller enough time to say he can fix it.

It’s a scam, so just hang up.

Legitimate companies won’t call or send emails offering services to fix your computer. They won’t send pop up messages in your web browser offering help eradicating malware or providing a digital tune-up. Only do business with service providers you contact first.

Unfortunately, a Hays woman recently learned about this the hard way. She reported to the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office last month that she lost $9,000 in a scam from a caller claiming to be from Microsoft.

The caller told the victim that she needed to update her computer software. According to a Wilkes Sheriff’s Office report, the woman was told that she needed to send $9,000 in cash to an address in California for the software update. She did this, but realized too late that it was a scam. The woman has a tracking number and is working with UPS to address the incident, the report said.

Computer software scams can take several forms, but typically involve the victim receiving a phone call or email from someone claiming that their computer needs help in some way.

Victims might be asked to purchase additional software online, which can result in loss of large amounts of money or theft of credit card or bank account details for fraudulent use.

Victims are often told that to get an upgrade or some other service, a software user account ID and password must be sent to the caller. The victim is often asked to type several commands onto the computer, after which the computer system falls under someone else’s control.

If a notification appears with a phone number, don’t call the number.

Be wary of downloading software from third-party sites. Some might have been modified to bundle malware and other threats.

The Federal Trade Commission reports that millions of dollars are lost each year in tech support scams. People 60 and older are about five times more likely to lose money to fraudsters. The FBI says tech support scams are among the fastest growing internet-based frauds.

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