Experts say computer, phishing scams spike during the holidays

Crime Tracker

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Some of the most common scams involve computers, which will be a gift many receive this holiday season.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the Metro-Davidson area, including Franklin and Murfreesboro ranks 46 in the nation for the number of fraud complaints – surpassing even Los Angeles.

News 2 spoke with Tabitha Hawk, with Nashville Computer Guru, and Sgt. Larry Pollard about common computer and email scams and how you can avoid being a victim.

Both Hawk and Pollard say they’re busy around the holidays–Hawk with fixing computers that have been infected with viruses and malware and Pollard with investigating fraud.

“We usually see these scams, but especially around the holidays,” said Sgt. Pollard, who is with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. The THP investigates criminal fraud complaints for the state.

“October through December is a hotbed of scams,” he added.

He says scammers can open up credit cards, get loans, and even obtain driver’s licenses with the information they steal from other peoples’ computers.

Sometimes the scammers don’t need to steal; victims will provide sensitive, personal information believing a website or link is legitimate.

“If they’re a legitimate site, they probably already have that information and you shouldn’t have to provide it to them,” said Sgt. Pollard. “And never provide your social security number.”

He says teens and people aged 59 and older are most often victimized.

Hawk told News 2 she receives calls almost daily from people whose computers have been infected with viruses and malware. She says her clients often open emails, click links, and download programs without verifying they’re the real deal.

“You think it’s real but what it’s doing in the background is collecting your passwords,” Hawk told News 2. “Many people will save their bank account information in their browser so it scoops up all that information and the goal is they usually sell this information on the black market.”

Hawk and Pollard shared advice for how to avoid being victimized.

First, Pollard says, if you aren’t expecting an email from a company don’t open it.

Second, don’t provide your personal information without verifying the company is legitimate. For example, if you get an email from Dell, call Dell and ask to provide the information over the phone.

Or, Hawk showed us a trick for how to tell if an email is legit. She says hover your mouse over the sender’s email address before you open it so the full address will display.

If you do open the email, the full address will show next to the display name. An email from Apple or Dell will usually end with @dell.com or @apple.com.

Both Hawk and Pollard say a little patience and vigilance can save you money, time and a headache.

If you believe you’re a victim of a scam, identity theft or fraud, call the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Click here for more information.

If you believe your computer has a virus, you can contact Tabitha Hawk, Nashville Computer Guru, at 615-332-2844 or through her website.

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