ORLANDO, Fla. — An Orlando woman just lost $2,000 to sophisticated scammers who pretend to be a well-known tech repair company, then take over your computer and raid your bank accounts.
Helene Brotman bought a new printer from Best Buy. So, when she had trouble connecting it, she called the company.
“They recommended I call Geek Squad and that’s what I did, and they were very helpful,” Brotman said.
Brotman says she found a Geek Squad number online and reached someone who said he was a company tech. Then he took remote control of her laptop to complete the printer connection.
Brotman said she received a notice two days later. “I got an email with a phone number to call telling me they had charged me for a two-year subscription.”
She called the number on the email to dispute the $500 charge for a protection plan. A manager said he needed to take control of her computer again to refund the money into her bank account. Brotman agreed but then watched the screen as the man remotely moved $1,500 out of her bank account. She complained.
“He said, 'Oh I’m new, it’s my mistake. So, can I please speak to your manager,” Brotman said.
That’s when it turned ugly. Brotman realized scammers had taken control of her computer and all her financial information on it. She was locked out.
“I realize I’m held hostage and I don’t know what to do and I was worried they’d take all the money out,” Brotman said.
Before she regained control, the bad guys cheated her out of $3,500.
In the past two years the fake geek squad scam has become one of the most sophisticated scams. Pretending to be the major company consumers trust, so they can get control of their computers.
Earlier this year that scam cost a Michigan woman $30,000.
In most cases the scammers leave email or phone messages about what would appear to be Geek Squad renewals or refunds. Many times, that links to official looking Geek Squad websites that are fake.
“This is akin to handing a stranger the keys to your house or handing them your wallet. You could be giving them very personal, very important information,” said BBB President Holly Salmons.
Best Buy warns consumers to be wary of these schemes. And says their techs only access a customer’s computer who contacts the company for help.
Brotman’s bank did send her a $1,500 refund. So, she still lost $2,000.
“Please don’t answer emails from Geek Squad,” Brotman said.
She did complain to the FBI’s Internet Crime Bureau. The agency has some success shutting down these kinds of scams, but rarely gets consumers their money back.
Best Buy’s statement:
“What happened to Ms. Brotman is terrible, and unfortunately, criminals continue to target consumers with many different scams, some of which include posing as brands like Best Buy. To help prevent a scam like this one, customers can always call Best Buy at 1-888-BESTBUY if they need tech support. If someone thinks they’ve been victimized in a similar scam, we encourage them to contact the local authorities immediately, as well as report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint at ic3.gov.”