Computer scam targeted vulnerable B.C. seniors
Phone calls warned of computer viruses, persuaded owners to hand over remote access
Seniors in B.C. have reported a surge in cold calls warning them that their computers have been infected with a virus—and if they give the caller remote access to their machine, it can be fixed.
The problem is, there's no way for anyone to know if you are having computer problems, until they access your machine and, in this particular scenario, that access comes with a fee.
One 79-year-old Vancouver man was convinced by a cold caller to provide remote access to his machine—along with his credit card details—and then watched in horror as the charges began to appear on his statement.
In June alone, he was charged $833 by two tech companies—SafeCart.com, based in Victoria, B.C., and Fast Fix 123, based in Florida.
The senior was surprised, because he thought he had been dealing directly with Microsoft.
When a family member saw the bill, they demanded—and received—a full refund.
CBC News contacted Revenue Wire Inc., the company that owns SafeCart.com, and received a statement via LinkedIn.
"As your example states, we process payments and provide full refunds when requested," reads the statement sent by Kim Krenzler, VP Human Resources at Revenue Wire Inc.
"SafeCart is a payment processing service and as such, when customers request a refund for payments processed through SafeCart, we comply. As you can see from our 'A' Rating, we address each complaint accordingly and in a timely manner."
Complaints on the increase
Seumus Gordon, spokesperson for the B.C. Better Business Bureau confirmed that complaints about this kind of phone scam had increased across the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island recently.
In fact the Better Business Bureau has closed 175 complaints against SafeCart.com in the past three years, and 73 in the last year alone.
Tech expert Graham Williams says it is in the interests of companies like Safecart.com and Fast Fix 123 to make a quick refund because if too many charge backs from credit cards show up through a payment processing company, it raises a red flag.
"They become suspect and the charge company no longer wants to do business with them," Williams said.
He notes that legitimate tech giants such as Microsoft, Google and Apple are never going to call you and request access to your computer.
"So if you get that phone call, hang up immediately."