How to protect yourself from scam that snared Vt. vet - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How to protect yourself from scam that snared Vt. vet

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Leonard Gregory is a disabled U.S. Marine living on a fixed income. A scam ruined his computer. He can't afford to buy a new one but he can't keep this one either. So he turned to ReSource in Burlington for help.

"So we just have to fill out some paperwork and we'll get you a desktop," said Danielle Dubois of ReSource.

"Four different times he called me with four different numbers," Leonard said.

That's where Leonard's troubles started. He got a call from Mike, a man claiming to be a Microsoft technician. He told Leonard Microsoft had detected 40,000 viruses on his computer and he wanted to help him fix it. The computer was a gift from Leonard's daughter. He wanted to protect it. So he handed over his computer password.

"Then he wanted me to go to Wal-Mart to buy three $100 iTunes cards," Leonard said. "And I said, whoa! Wait a minute. Something is not right here."

Leonard was duped by a sophisticated cybercriminal. Once he let him in, he couldn't stop it. These crooks prey on the elderly and trusting people like Leonard.

"I felt like I had been violated," Leonard said.

Microsoft says it will never proactively solicit customers for tech support. The company warns on its website the scam tricks victims into installing software that steals sensitive data like banking usernames and passwords.

Vermont's attorney general says 463 Vermonters reported similar computer tech support scams last year.

It also ruins the computers it infects, leaving the victims with tough, expensive choices.

"If it's a virus that's just tracking what they're doing, but they want to keep their information, but it hasn't completely taken over the computer, we can sometimes just remove it," said Paul Webster-Pact, an IT generalist at ReSource. "But if it is something that's much more serious, the customer will come in and ask us just to completely wipe and reinstall the operating system on the computer."

The tech team tells WCAX News they are seeing this Microsoft scam quite often, sometimes even helping repeat customers. And they say the effects can be devastating.

"He drained my bank account," Leonard said. "Took about $600 of my money."

Money that had taken this Vietnam vet months to save, cash he had set aside for food. It was everything Leonard had in his account.

"I just don't want anyone else going through this, Jennifer. It's horrible," Leonard said.

Through a charity program, ReSource was able to get Leonard a refurbished computer for free. He tells me he won't be answering phone calls or downloading programs on his new computer from people he doesn't know.

"I'm very grateful to you and [ReSource] in helping me," Leonard told Danielle.

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