I have been scammed by a computer repair company: I paid them $350 to repair my computer after their number came up on a crash screen. It did sort of work after they fixed it. Now they want to refund my money and tell me they created a paypal account for me and put $2,350.00 in it. Oh,my! The fellow mistakenly put too much in the account and now I must go to Walmart and send him the excess amount. What should I do?
Oh boy, you’ve been scammed not once, but twice. The first time was when you had your computer infected with malware that gave you that blue screen. The second time is the refund scam because, of course, there’s no money sitting in any PayPal account and if were sitting there, by the time you went to withdraw it, you’d find the balance had mysterious gone to zero.
The first scam was what’s called “ransomware” and it’s tough to deal with because it typically freezes up or locks up your computer until you pay the criminal money (often via Bitcoin since it’s untraceable) and they send back an unlock code or unlock it remotely. There have been some high-profile ransomware cases recently too, including Hollywood Presbyterian hospital in California.
Here’s a common ransomware screen:
At that point, since you don’t want to encourage or pay criminals, the best thing to do is go into a local PC repair shop (try BestBuy if you don’t have other options) with your computer, your most recent backup, and a few days when you can be without the computer while they eradicate the problem. Often, clearing up ransomware involves reformatting and re-installing the operation system and apps, however, so be prepared and make sure you have good backups!
In terms of the “we overpaid, can you send us the difference”, that’s just a different type of scam that preys on the most gullible. Don’t fall for it. Of course they aren’t going to refund your money and even if they did, why set up a PayPal account? And how the &*($# would they “accidentally” put in so much more than the amount?
Here’s another common ransomware screen, this time with some encryption thrown in:
The scam works like this: They send you altered paperwork to “prove” you now have $2350 in an account with your name on it. You pay back the over deposit – $2000 – and then they “give you access” to the remainder. Except none of it exists and you’ve now added $2000 to the $350 you originally paid these scammers.
Oh, and you haven’t gotten rid of the malware on your computer that triggered the ransomware in the first place, so expect it to happen again in a few months. That’s why you need to get some help rebuilding your computer at this point, not just trusting that the bad guys who ripped you off are going to remove their malware from your system!
Don’t be a victim, don’t believe anything you get via email, and make sure you have great backups.