Police are warning Lexingtonians to beware of a growing nationwide telephone-computer scam that recently has been reported here.
Police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said Friday that the scam typically works like this:
A person pretending to represent a computer manufacturer or anti-virus software company calls someone's home. The caller asks the home owner to visit a website from his or her computer and download a file.
Those who comply with the request could pay an expensive penalty, Roberts said.
The file is embedded with a "Trojan horse" virus. Once downloaded, the virus enters the computer and steals private information and passwords stored there.
The victim has no idea that the virus is present or stealing the information.
The scam artists can then use the stolen information to victimize the owner of the computer.
Police said the virus is particularly harmful for people who use mobile banking, because operators of the scam can transfer money from bank accounts without the account holder's knowledge.
"Our Financial Crimes Unit detectives have received about half a dozen complaints over the past two weeks from people saying this particular scam has happened to them," Roberts said.
"Now they now have the virus in their computers, which means they have to get a computer expert to handle it," she said. "In the meantime, it's a huge headache because they need to change all their passwords and contact their credit bureaus to have their accounts flagged for suspicious activity."
Roberts said that as far as she knew, none of the people in Lexington who have been hit by the scam have lost any money.
Police recommend that you never give a caller remote access to your computer. Also, never download unknown or suspicious software from anyone, Roberts said.
Roberts said that if you think you've been targeted by the scam, call Lexington police at (859) 256-3700. Also, contact your financial institutions to ensure that no fraudulent activity has occurred on any accounts, she said.