Beware fake Apple pop-ups

Normal Heights victims

Fake Apple pop-up
  • Fake Apple pop-up

“My husband got a pop-up on our Mac computer with a phone number to call about a virus on our computer,” said CZ. “The caller tried their best to convince him that the Mac was going to stop working.”

Since the beginning of the year, Tony Lindsey has encountered approximately 180 Apple computer-and-device issues, similar to CZ’s, many which were scams.

“None of these Macs are hacked,” said Lindsey, a 62-year-old computer consultant based out of Normal Heights, “and this happens nearly every day.”

CZ, also from Normal Heights, recently opened up an email “that looked to me like it came from Apple and seemed quite plausible so I clicked on the link,” she said. “The email said someone charged a $90 game to my Apple account and since my grandsons use my Apple account to download games, I thought one of them may have downloaded something without realizing the cost.”

She then clicked on the hyperlink and was then asked to enter her social security number.

“That’s a red flag,” CZ said, “I then called Apple support at 1-800-MY-APPLE (800-692-7753) and the tech showed me how to identify the email address that sent the bogus email to me.”

“If you get a suspicious email from anybody making a claim of authority,” Lindsey said, “and you are using the mail app on your Mac, click on the little “v” shaped character next to the name of the sender and it reveals the true sender’s address. If there’s no “apple.com” in there, they are attempting to fool you.”

According to Lindsey, Apple addresses their subscribers by their actual name in the emails, and not a generic greeting like “Dear Apple user.”

“A dialog box suddenly opened with verbiage stating my iMac computer (circa 2013) had been compromised and gave a phone number for Apple to call,” said Jim, 74, from University Heights.

“There was also a voice [emitting from the speaker] announcing that my computer had been compromised and my screen was frozen as I could do nothing, or so I thought. I called the number in a panic and was assured all would be OK and like a dummy, I gave him remote control [access] and he was showing me all of these attempts to hack into my computer, which unknown to me at the time were bogus.”

Jim’s faux-Apple representative had a thick “Indian accent" and took Jim’s credit card information to charge $700 to load a Symantec anti-virus software that supposedly would fix his computer.

“I then called my bank and froze all of our accounts,” Jim said, “reported the credit card charge as fraudulent, cancelled the card for a replacement, and called the real Apple for help to regain control of my iMac. Apple validated my iMac was fine after dumping some files and malware that the bogus people polluted it with. I was told by the Apple rep that I do not need anti-virus software.”

The last time that Lindsey saw an actual virus on an Apple computer was in 2001, “when Mac OS X 10.0 came out.”

“I have never seen key-loggers or spyware successfully installed on a Mac,” he said. “Apple is death on such things, and security is very, very tight, if you have been up to date with your upgrades. If Apple corporate learns of a successful piece of actual malware, as opposed to “crapware” like MacKeeper, they have the power to flip one master switch, and every copy of that program on earth goes dead — permanently. Your Apple devices check in with Apple twelve times a day, to learn about new issues and toxic websites.”

Mary Lou, 65, from North Park, recently had an issue with her Macbook Air. “When I opened it, there a was a message saying my computer had serious virus issues and a trojan,” she said. “Believing it was Apple as the message claimed, I turned over control to them. They ran a program and identified over 500 [alleged] viruses. I used my credit card and they charged over $150 to remove the trojan horse, then they wanted more money to remove the rest of the viruses … like $150 or $200.”

One of Lindsey’s friends was taken for $2000.

“He was paying over $500 for an annual ‘printer diagnosis,’ and he even agreed when they told him not to do any financial transactions with his bank for at least nine hours and to pay them with Apple gift cards.

"Sheesh, I love him dearly, but when the scammers found him, they could see from way over there that he’s gullible. In my experience, these are calls emanating from India, using area codes in the U.S.”

Another iMac user from North Park paid more than $300 to someone with “a heavy accent” and felt that had he not agreed to the sales rep (which he relinquished his name and password to), his photos, videos and backup files, would get deleted.

On the Nextdoor app, Lindsey has 78 referrals. He’s been a computer consultant for 38 years and proclaims he’s the highest-rated Certified Apple Consultant on earth, with more five-star referrals on Apple’s website than the rest of all of Southern California, combined.

“Let’s say that you get fooled, and allow these jerks to have remote access to your computer, he said. “What actually happens? Nothing, really. They make windows open and close, while they talk to distract you, claiming that they are accomplishing truly heroic measures on your behalf. At worst, they load unnecessary programs onto your Mac, which try to sell you things, but have no other effect, such as Advanced Mac Cleaner and MacKeeper. These are all junk … just one step away from being malware.”

He also noted two telltale signs that a computer or device has been compromised. “Pop-up ads demanding that MacKeeper etc. be paid for and web-pages that are hijacked, so that searches switch from Google to Yahoo.

Lindsey advised to pull down the Apple menu, and choose “Force Quit”; after quitting, close the little window; then hold down the shift key on the keyboard, and click on the web-browser (that causes it to stop trying to bring you back to the trouble spot).

In February, Apple put out a press release to help their users identify phishing emails and messages.

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Comments

I know Tony Lindsey in this story. He is the king of anything Mac.

Does Tony Lindsey have a phone number? Does he take private patients? I got into a huge mess earlier this year with Apple Mail fakery and East Indian "help" and it cost a bunch to undo the damage. Ignorance is a big liability. In the end, Apple Support is brilliant, kind and free.

Never mind. I clicked the link with Lindsey's information. Huge service to us semi-literates, San Diego Reader, thanks very much!

Sad that we cannot trust anything that arrives by email. A few months ago, Cox was advising us to make some alterations, and even though it was legit, I was most reluctant to do anything until I'd talked to them on the phone. Turns out that it was legit.

But then there was the time when "Windows Service Center" called one day with an urgent message that we needed to clean malware from our computer. The Hindu accents were almost unintelligible, but with Microsoft, who could be sure? Out sourcing has run rampant. It took me ten to fifteen minutes to determine that it was a scam. They didn't want money, only "credit card". What's the difference? And then to do their magic, we would shut down the computer so that they could do the cleanup by satellite. Uh, huh. These scammers are very creative indeed.

Excellent and funny point about not knowing whether to trust "foreign" accents, because it could be your neighbor down the block. I think the warning flag is ANY UNSOLICITED NOTICE that things are haywire with your computer. (Though I will say, notices alleging computer trouble are ALWAYS repeated, sometimes for days on end, and they shake one's resolve to ignore them as bogus.) The takeaway? Never give any cold-caller remote control access to your computer. Never give an authoritative-sounding stranger your credit card number. Never give anyone your social security number. Stay strong, Luddites!

This is a more sophisticated version of ripoffs by dishonest auto mechanics, roofers, furnace repair people, exterminators, etc. When youk now little or nothing about those subjects, it's easy to get scammed into paying heavy bucks for work that wasn't needed. Since computer users (especially Mac owners) know very little about what's "under the hood," it's like shooting fish in a barrel for these remotely-located crooks. It's a good idea to take a class or two about computers, especially in regard to security, viruses, malware, etc.; Windows PC users in particular.

That's horrible. We can not even rely on an Apple. I think it's cheaper to bathe the Android smartphone. After all, Apple is so expensive and the quality is at times worse. Recently I wanted to make a mobile application for my company, I used app price calculator to the cost of a mobile application, and the application for Apple was very expensive for me.

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