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This is a scam, says Rose Chan, a consumer advice counselor for Consumer Action.The tipoff: Utility companies send warnings, or use automated calls as reminders.You could be a victim of "cramming." Many phone companies allow you to pay for third-party services by having charges added to your phone bill. But sometimes scammers attempt to have phantom fees added to those bills, says Duane Pozza, an attorney in the financial practices division of the Federal Trade Commission.The scam gets its name from the fact that third-party operations are "cramming" their bogus charges onto real phone bills.
Regularly back up data, download software patches and update anti-virus and anti-malware programs, he says.The scam is known as Ransomware, and the notifications "look very official," says Nickolas Savage, assistant special agent in charge of the cybercrime branch of the FBI's Washington, D.C., field office Depending on the variation, you may see a warning banner from a "government agency" or "software maker." In a different type of attack, known as Cryptolocker, you might simply get a pop-up message demanding ransom in exchange for the encryption key to restore the machine, he says.Criminals playing the odds may even mention your actual bank by name and that, plus the robo-calling feature, "makes it seem more credible," says Gary K. "They reach out to thousands of people and know that someone will bite," he says.The tipoff: When banks freeze a card for suspicious activity, the cardholder usually has to initiate the call, King says.