University of Tenn. student gets scare from malware threat


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A University of Tennessee student received an alert on her laptop recently that frightened her.

Was she in danger of losing her class notes?

The alert warning said there was suspicious activity on her computer, and she was directed to call a toll-free number and she did.

Getting one of these alert messages on your computer or device immediately raises your blood pressure.

If your screen suddenly fills with a scary popup: you should close your browser and if you can’t close it, restart your device.

Freshman Baylie Heller came to WATE 6 On Your Side to tell us about an alarming experience she had recently that came up on her computer while attending class.

“I was on my laptop and all of a sudden, I got an alert. There was a beeping It said, “virus detected.” Then the Microsoft support number showed up. I was really worried thinking something really serious was going on. I also got a message that my passwords, that said my passwords to everything were compromised – Facebook, emails, the password to get into my computer.”

Baylie Heller – Student

So she called the toll-free number unaware that it was a fake error message. “They were calm about the whole thing, they said they would help me out. That made me feel better about that.”

The person on the phone told her to download AnyDesk, it’s a legitimate App that provides remote access to any device.

“They told me to give them a code and that’s how they would get in and fix the problem for me. At this point, I didn’t think any of that was odd because not having ever dealing with viruses, or ever having to call Microsoft Support, I had no idea that wasn’t the number. It started when I was at the beginning of my class.”

Baylie Heller

Baylie said the people claiming to be from Tech Support had control of her computer for more than four hours. She called back several times talking to different people.

The caller then told Baylie he wanted her to buy pre-paid money cards at a local Dollar General store. When she told her boyfriend about what was going on, he remembered a story we reported about malware threats.

“You should never call the number that pops up on your computer.”

Baylie Heller

Better Business Bureau President Tony Binkley warned last year that many people have called the phony tech support number and lost their money — Baylie listened to her boyfriend’s plea.

“So, he’s telling me to hang up and I’m panicking at this point – I was like, what is going on? He looked up the Microsoft Support number and it wasn’t the people I’m on the phone with. So, at that point is when I realized the people actually helping me were actually hacking me.”

Baylie Heller

Prevention is the most important aspect in protecting you date from ransomware.

  • Use trusted security software.
  • Keep your security software up to date and don’t automatically open email attachments. The main methods of delivering Ransomware.

Baylie lost no money, only precious time without her computer that she needed to prepare for exams. If there is a next time, she’ll ignore the warning that pops on her screen.

Something to remember: Error messages from Microsoft, or other big tech companies, never include phone numbers for you to call them.

Also, Microsoft and other legitimate tech companies will never cold call you, to tell you that there’s a problem with your device. Additionally, tech support agents will never need to ask you for your Social Security number or other unrelated personal information.

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