Man refuses to pay Zeus virus ransom, says computer works fine: Money Matters

Q: I opened my computer today and it was locked up by what looked like Microsoft. It warned me that my computer was infected by the ZEUS virus. I tried everything I know how to get out of the site without success. In desperation, I dialed the listed phone number, which went to a call center, where after a short wait I was connected to someone who said he would help me.

His help consisted of telling me everything that was wrong with my computer and offering to fix it for $499. When I told him I would purchase a new computer rather than pay that much, he lowered the price to $300. He also mentioned a site in Beachwood where I could take my computer to be fixed, although I never got an address. I again told him that before I gave him any amount, I would buy a new computer. He then agreed to return control of my computer to me. As far as I can tell my computer is operating as before.

Every appearance was this indeed was Microsoft. If it was not, they should have something out explaining what is going on. If it is, shame on them!

B.D., Brunswick Hills

A: First, this message was not from Microsoft. Second, I sure hope you haven’t been using your computer for anything more than checking the weather forecast, because thieves could be stealing your passwords and personal information as we speak.

These scams have been common for years. You somehow stumble across a virus, either from clicking on a bad link in an email, or from some virus you encountered on some Facebook coupon offer, or from going to a shady web site.

Reputable companies — be it Microsoft or Apple or whoever — don’t infect our computers with viruses and then tell us we can pay $499 by phone to get the problem fixed.

You should never call the phone number or send a message to the email address in a pop-up like this. You shouldn’t feel bad for initially falling for it — I’ve talked to many savvy folks who’ve gotten suckered into a scam because everything seems so real.

Thankfully, you didn’t pay…

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