A patron called the library the other day. She was frazzled because of a 1-800 number. Apparently, she went to some site that spat a popup at her claiming that her computer was at risk and she should call this 1-800 number immediately. So like any computer neophyte, she did.
This company, EZ Online Support, told her they were Microsoft Certified (as if a PC newbie cares one jot about this) and that because she didn’t have any anti-virus software her computer was at risk. They had her download Team Viewer, with which they connected to her computer. After a look they installed CC Cleaner and Adblock plus. They then had her write a check for this service and others.
The apps they installed were honest ones. The intention was not. It “really grinds my gears” (as Peter Griffin would say) that companies have the gall to do this. While I was a little relieved when she brought in the laptop and I saw no evidence of nefarious installation, I’m still irked. I will admit that the services they provide are warranted but using pop-ups to sell services is shady. I’m of the mind that the ends does not justify the means. She was sold a bill of goods out of fear. They took advantage of that fear to make a quick buck. This, my friends, is why libraries are needed now more than ever.
She brought in her laptop and I uninstalled the apps. I then installed the AVG Free Edition and gave her a crash course in the power of ctrl+alt+delete because the popup wouldn’t allow her to actually close the window. I also gave her a handout I threw together on Digital Security so she could read more. Finally, I told her to look for “https” in the address bar when putting in sensitive info. This help, plus my advice to have her put a stop payment on the check, allowed her to have some measure of relief. I often feel that I’m doing real and lasting good in my job, but I don’t often feel this strongly about it.
The aforementioned handout had links to the following sites dedicated to digital security:
If you’ve run into this problem, or one like it, please share!