Has it happened to you?

An increasing number of New Jersey residents have been getting calls from individuals who say they work for computer and internet safety companies, advising them of a breach or security concern with their home or work computer.

“It’s not on the level. This scam comes and goes, and right now it’s coming again,” said Adam Levin, chairman and founder of Identity Theft 911 and a former director of the state Division of Consumer Affairs.

He explained what scammers are trying to do is catch you at a moment of vulnerability, where you’ll want to take immediate action.

“The normal reaction is to freak out whenever someone says to you that there’s a problem with your computer,” he said. “What they’re counting on the fact that your desire to solve the problem right now means you’re going to give them credit card information or personal information.”

Steve Lee, the current Consumer Affairs director, said if you get a call from someone claiming to be from your computer security firm, there are a couple of things to look out for.

“Most of the time if someone is trying to rush you into action or if someone is yelling at you on the phone to do something, those are pretty big red flags of fraud," he said.

Another indicator that something is fishy is if the caller has a restricted number.

“Most businesses, because they want to get calls back, they don’t restrict their numbers,” said Lee.

Levin pointed out even though the scammer appears to know something about you or the kind of system or coverage you may have, they may actually know nothing.

“A lot of times their people will throw out something and hope that they hook you, because it sounds right,” he said. “There is no legitimate organization on this planet that would say, 'Hey, give me your password and I’ll take care of everything.'”

He also said some internet computer repair sites that you find online may look great and boast about being associated with companies like Microsoft, but in fact they’re also scams.

Lee stressed consumers always need to be very careful and they should never give credit card information or passwords or social security information over the phone.

“If they get a call out of the blue, they just need to use their common sense, like if you haven’t been having problems with your computer in the past, then don’t overreact if you receive a phone call,” he said.

So what should New Jerseyans do if they think they’re getting scammed but aren’t sure?

“They can reach us online at njconsumeraffairs.gov, they can file a complaint online or just look at our consumer briefs to determine whether what they’re facing is fraud or if it’s legitimate,” said Lee

Contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.