The Investigators

Jan 17, 2014 8:10 PM by Tom McNamara and Paul Birmingham

Overseas hackers target Tucson computers

Here is a warning from the News 4 Tucson Investigators about overseas hackers, who have set their sights on Tucson computers.

One Tucsonan who was targeted by the hackers contacted the News 4 Tucson Investigators, hoping her story will help prevent others from becoming a victim.

The Microsoft user, who we'll call Mary, didn't want us to use her name or show her face. She is still shaken by what just happened.

She started having trouble with her computer earlier this month. Then one day, she got an unexpected phone call. The person on the other line said they were a Microsoft Support technician, who could remotely fix her computer. All she had to do was pay $200.00 But for Mary, something didn't sound quite right.

"I kept asking them, where are you? Oh, we're in California, and I thought no, no, no no," Mary says.

The caller wanted Mary to put the $200.00 on a Green Dot Money Pak card, available at many stores. A clerk at one of those stores told Mary, the card is increasing being used by con-artists.

When the man claiming to be a Microsoft tech called Mary back, she confronted him.

"That's when I got rather angry with them, and told them, get off my computer," Mary says.

Sgt. Richard Radinsky with the Tucson Police Department's Fraud Unit tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, Mary is by no means alone.

In the past week or so, TPD has learned of at least three other cases in Tucson. The suspects have targeted users across the United States, telling their victims pay-up, by putting up to $400.00 on the Green Dot Money Pak card.

When the exchange is complete, the funds are virtually untraceable.

"Once that account has been zeroed out, you know, to try and trace where it's gone to, a lot of times it could end up overseas, gone," Radinsky says,

So far, they've not been identified, but Sgt. Radinsky tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, those responsible for hijacking Mary's and other computers are in fact, operating outside the United States. The damage they can do goes far beyond just a minor inconvenience.

"The suspects have complete access to the computer. They can put any programs they want at that point, grab any files, whether they be password files, financial information," Radinsky says.

In her case, Mary says AOL was able to pinpoint the origin of the hack-attack to China.

"These guys know how to sneak in your computer, and mess it up, big-time. And, there's no saving it," Mary says.

It took AOL five different cleaners to get her computer back up and running after the con artists gained remote-access, and things still aren't back to normal.

"It's been a mess cleaning up the computer after they were in it," Mary says.

Sgt. Radinsky tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, Microsoft technicians may call users about error message, but they won't ask for payment.

You can report this, or other online scams at using at ic3.gov. You can also get more information about this scam at the Microsoft Security's website.

If you have something you would like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to check out, email us at investigators@kvoa.com, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at (520)955-4444.

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