Q: Last weekend our laptop (one of two Windows 10 computers on the same router) showed a screen with Microsoft all over it telling us that horrible things have happened to the laptop and that it is blocked until we fix it and we can only fix it by calling “Microsoft” at a provided number. This turned out to be something called “NTS-IT-Care.”
They were very nice and responsive, but I kept asking how they were related to Microsoft. I was assured that they were “contracted” with the company and that I should proceed to hire them for $149 to fix the problem. They got into the laptop, took my credit card number, spent a lot of time talking to me, and did “fix” the problem. I now have the phone number, a 1-year “warranty,” and $149 less in my bank account.
Our techie daughter thinks we were “ransomed” and taken, and that we should have made sure we were talking to Microsoft directly. Were we taken?
— Ted Watts, Bellevue
A: Yes, I’m afraid it sounds like you’ve been had. The way this usually happens is that a user inadvertently downloads a piece of malware that pops up a message warning about a virus or some other technical issue and giving a number for the user to call.
That malware can be downloaded without your knowledge either by clicking on an advertisement or even just by visiting an infected website.
As for NTS IT Care, I have reached out to the company but have received no response. A quick search of the internet, however, shows many complaints against the company, including a rating of “F” from the Better Business Bureau. According to the BBB, the company has a “pattern of complaints” and has never responded to the bureau’s attempts to resolve those complaints.
Microsoft, by the way, has indicated that it doesn’t employ pop-up warnings urging users to call phone numbers for support.
Moving forward, while it’s not foolproof protection, I recommend installing an anti-malware program. Also, never trust emails or pop-ups in your web browser. If you receive a message purporting to be from a legitimate company and urging you to call, confirm the number by contacting the company directly.
And yes, do a quick search on the internet — including the Better Business Bureau site — if you have any suspicions.
Q: I’m using Windows 10 and Firefox as my browser. Everything is updated.
On some sites if I’m on a page for more than a minute or two, I can’t use the Back button because the entire history is populated with that page. I have to navigate to the top of the home page and start over. On some other sites, I have to right-click the button to skip through a number of repeats, but the entire list isn’t full so that’s workable. On most sites, this doesn’t happen at all — one click on the button takes me back to the previous page.
Any ideas about why this happens and what I might do about it, if anything?
— Phil Singher, Langley
A: I haven’t been able to find any answers for this particular problem, nor have I found other reports of this issue.
First, two questions. Are you having the same problem when using a different browser? If not, it’s unlikely that the problem is with the websites you’re visiting.
As a rule, when I encounter an unexplained problem with a browser the first thing I do is disable all browser add-ons and extensions. The majority of browser problems I’ve encountered can generally be tracked back to a third-party add-on. If that didn’t solve the problem, I would uninstall and then reinstall the browser.
And just FYI, I also use Firefox as my go-to browser. I haven’t had any problems returning to a previous page or with my browser history filling up.