Stephanie Golden was shopping on her MacBook when a malware attack took over her laptop's screen.
"Immediately my screen went white with a box that said, 'You are at risk of spyware, scams, something.' There was a banner on there that said, 'Call Apple Support immediately,'" she said.
Panicked, since all her personal financial information was on the MacBook, she called what she believed to be Apple Support.
Apple Support not really Apple
The agent who answered told her that, yes, he was with Apple, and that he could fix her MacBook for a small fee.
"It will cost $200, but we can't ask for cash with Apple," Golden said he explained to her. "So we need you to buy gift cards, two $100 Apple gift cards."
So she ran to the store to purchase iTunes cards.
"I listened because they make you feel so scared. Your emotions kind of take over," she said.
She read the gift card numbers to the technician, but says he then informed her, "Those don't seem to work, they are not coming through on our end. You need to buy two more."
Golden she went back to the store and bought two more, but the tech said those didn't work either. So, hard to believe, she bought two more gift cards.
She thought the original cards were not working, and that she was paying just $200 for repair. But in the end, Golden says, all the cards were valid, and the phone scammer was getting the numbers off them as she called them in.
She ended up giving him $800 worth of iTunes gift cards before the man hung up, and she realized the Apple Support number she called wasn't really Apple.
How to protect yourself
For several years, this tech support scam was called the Microsoft scam or Windows scam because it targeted people with Microsoft, Windows-based computers. Often they call to say your Microsoft license is expiring and that you need to pay to renew it.
But lately those scammers have moved on to Apple devices, and if you have an iPhone or Macbook, you too could become a victim .
"I'm not stupid, I'm not a gullible person," Golden said. "But in that moment nothing else mattered, and all you wanted to do was be safe, and have a working computer."
Now, she just wants to warn other Apple users so they don't lose hundreds of dollars like she did.
To stay safe, remember:
- Apple or Microsoft will never call you about a problem with your computer.
- If you are calling for help, they will never ask you to pay with gift cards, which are untraceable.
- Use a credit card, so that you can file a fraud report if you have a problem with the service.
As always, don't waste your money.
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