It has come to my attention that several people on the Hill have been the victim of computer scams via phone calls. Their computers were hacked and sensitive information stolen.

The scam is enticing and persuasive. You receive a phone call from someone with a strong Indian accent and you definitively are told that “something is wrong with your computer.”

These days, an Indian accent being associated with computer support, you begin to believe that, indeed, your computer has issues, regardless of whether your intuition is screaming.

The caller may tell you that he is from Microsoft, Apple, Norton, McAfee, etc. He may say that errors have been detected on your computer, that your firewall subscription has expired, that there are issues with your website, etc.

If the ploy is related to errors on your Windows-based computer, the caller walks you to the Windows Event Viewer logs to show you the errors. Not knowing that the logs always contain errors, you panic and release control of your computer. It is only when you are asked to pay to get your computer fixed that you realize what has happened. But it is too late, your computer has been infected and your data stolen.

Under Windows, the scammer can also guide you to the command prompt — something mysterious to the average user — and tell you to take some techie actions, unknown to you.

One of the most devastating steps is when you are led to type AAMMY. This brings you to a website displaying the cost for this support call and when you realize this is a scam. But, again, this is too late.

If you have any suspicions about a computer related phone call, tell the caller to contact your computer support person.

If you suspect files could have been deleted from your computer, immediately turn your computer off the usual way, and contact your support person. He may be able to recover these files as long as you do not run any program, including going on the Web.

If you know that a computer containing your personal information — yours or someone else’s — has been hacked, all the information it contained is now in the hands of strangers. There is a strong possibility that your identity has been stolen. You need to take immediate steps to protect yourself as best and as soon as possible.

If your computer containing other people’s personal information has been hacked, notify these individuals ASAP.

In general, keeping all computers infection-free and well-protected, not visiting “dodgy” websites — especially pornographic ones — limit future trouble.

Francoise Frigola