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It’s a Scam: ‘You Have Problems, the CPU Is Running at Only 3%’

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bill-swift - July 11, 2012

Most Windows users are familiar with the look of the charts and stats presented by Task Manager, which pops up after you hit the old, familiar CTRL+ALT+DEL. This is something that scammers are taking advantage of, as they're now using it to trick users into believing that something is seriously wrong with their computers.

This type of scam is usually called a computer support scam, where fraudsters dupe people into installing all sorts of software or pay fees to "fix" their computer.

As researchers from ESET discovered, the scammers are merely relying on the activity charts of Windows Task Manager. They're not only conducting these scams online, but also in the real world, going to lengths such as actually phoning users and then getting them to access Task Manager.

In one situation, the crooks called up a woman and told her to access the Task Manager. They asked her to tell them the CPU usage and when she said that it was at 3%, they said that it was clearly a problem since it should have been at 80%.

-- Eduard Kovacs, security blogger at Softpedia

According to ESET Senior Research Fellow David Harley, this is pure nonsense. He asserts the scammers are just taking advantage of people who aren't tech savvy to know that low CPU usage wasn't a problem.

Low CPU usage just means that the processor doesn't have much to do right now. In fact, a continuously high CPU usage percentage might actually indicate a problem, though I wouldn't suggest that you let a cold-caller convince you that it's a virus. It's perfectly normal for CPU usage to fluctuate dramatically according to what processes are active.

-- David Harley, ESET Senior Research Fellow

I wonder what these scammers will think of next.

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