Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Surprizingly, certain viruses can make costly long-distance calls using your computer. The best prevention is keeping your machine safe from viruses.

A few days ago I started receiving an email message entitled "content filter". Each email has an attachment alternately named dog.scr, garry.scr, doll.scr. An acquaintance said that someone was trying to make long distance calls through my computer. Norton anti-virus and Spybot haven't been able to stop this problem. I check for updates from Norton and Spybot almost every day. I know this is a very general question but would you be able to tell me how to proceed from here? Would using another email program such as Firefox eliminate the threat of passing on the virus? Is there really a danger of long distance phone calls being charged to my account?

There's a number of things going on in this question. I'll address each one in turn.

Starting with the bottom line, the only real risk is if you open or execute one of those attachments. They're simply the sign of someone else's computer infected with a virus that's attempting to spread to you. A virus scanner won't stop them from coming. I get them all the time myself.

The attachments you're seeing that all end with ".scr" are the virus itself. ".scr" is the extension for Windows screen savers which are just another type of computer program. If you were to open the attachment, Windows could run it, thereby infecting your machine.

Another email program isn't really going to help here. The problem isn't on your end. In fact, it sounds like you're doing everything right. (By the way, Firefox is a web browser and not an email program. It's an alternative to Internet Explorer. Thunderbird is the email program that is considered an alternative to Outlook Express.)

Yes, there are certain types of viruses and spyware that will attempt to dial out to a "900" number or the equivalent where you would get charged an excessive amount for making the call.

The best advice is simply to not open attachments that you aren't sure of, don't forward emails that have those attachments, and regularly scan for viruses and spyware (just to be safe) making sure your virus scanner and spyware scanner have up to date databases.

Article C2248 - December 28, 2004 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Ron Braidwood
November 18, 2005 3:28 AM

Just one point about the "others making expensive calls using your computer" : Whether or not your computer has been successfully infected or not, it is possible to know when any device is attempting to dial out from your PC via the modem. There is a FREE download available from British Telecom called BT Modem Protection and it will produce an alert window message if any attempted dialling other than to your listed, (permitted, eg; the ISP), numbers takes place. It does not in itself prevent the dialling but leaves it to the user to interrupt the modem or not.

Another feature from BT, assuming that your phone is from them, is to pay a small fee each month to block all premium calls from your phone.

Together, these methods will both warn and protect against outgoing premium calls.

Thanks, Ron Braidwood, London

December 19, 2007 1:09 PM

Okay this may sound crazy but can someone make a call from my number without my phone or sim card? I mean how do I explain someone calling someone else from my number when I had my phone with me?


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