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FBI warns of 'Tech Support Fraud' online crime, local teen becomes victim

Posted at 4:39 PM, Jul 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-06 12:12:38-04

You wouldn't hand over the key to your home to a stranger, but that's what more and more people do in what investigators call "tech support fraud."

It's as common as getting a pop up on your computer that looks like you have malware or a virus. You have to click or call someone to upgrade your anti-virus program, but what you're doing is opening the door to get robbed. 

Steele Freeland, 15, is used to navigating around roadblocks. His favorite game is Minecraft and ironically it's what led him to a different kind of block. 

"He wanted to see if there was any updates with the games so he went online, found something of interest and clicked on it," said John Freeland, Steele's father. 

A pop up that looked like a Microsoft Virus warning locked up his computer.

"I wasn't able to close out of the message, the page, the message,  I couldn't even close out of the browser," said Steele. 

The message gave him a number for tech support.

"He goes ahead makes that phone call, person asked for the IP address, and you know my son not thinking about it gives the IP address and now the guy is linked into my computer," said Freeland. 

And on the other end of the call, a tech support schemer. 

"They have full control. It's like they're sitting at your computer. You've invited someone to your house and gave them the keys to the kingdom," said Alan Crowetz, internet security expert, www.infostream.cc

Crowetz said once the hacker is in your computer they can access any personal or financial information or even download a real virus. The FBI warns that 10,000 complaints of the scam were reported last year with victims losing nearly $8 million. 

"When I found out about it is when my son came to me and says I need a credit card so we can pay $229 to fix this virus and everything is OK, he’s online with Microsoft. And obviously we were suspicious at that point," added Freeland.

Freeland shut down the computer immediately and called Crowetz. He was able to stop any further breach and is now more aware of how easy it is to let strangers in. 

"Now it's come close to home, literally," said Freeland.

Florida was ranked third among states with the most reported money lost due to internet fraud. Stay safe by knowing what anti-virus software you have and keeping it up to date with the latest version. If you become a victim, report it to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. 

For a free internet safety checklist, you can go to www.infostream.cc/social