I've been scammed - a cautionary tale for others
Like I expect many of you, I have received those cold calls from someone with a foreign accent telling me they are calling because their systems show that my computer has been infected by a virus and they are calling to help me get rid of it. And, again like many of you, I get rid of them instead. And that’s it until they call again.
It’s a crime, literally and figuratively, that some people get sucked in by these calls and end up with all the grief that comes from allowing these scam artists access to your computer and all the stuff that’s on it.
And even though I consider myself smarter than the average bear (younger readers – ask your parents) I have now joined the ranks of those scammed. I want to share the experience as a cautionary tale. Read and learn.
It started about three weeks ago. My Brother printer was no longer accepting a wireless print command from my computer. None of the limited things I knew to try to rectify it worked, so I decided to get in contact with Brother and see if they could get it up and running again.
So I goggled Brother Printers and called the number. Someone answered, I explained the problem and they forwarded me to their “tech” department. This lead to their screen-sharing my computer. I watched as a bunch of code flew by, and then they told me the problem is that my computer is infected – in pretty bad shape but that they could fix it at a cost $129.95. Since the printer was no longer on warranty and because of course I didn’t want an infected computer, I gave up my credit card number and they did whatever it is they do. And in the process my printer started working again. In retrospect not sure what that was, maybe just coincidence, but at the time so far so good.
Jump ahead about three weeks to the night before last, and I get a call from someone who explained they were the people that did the work on my printer issue, and they were calling because they discovered that the software they used has a problem and they needed to go into my computer again to fix it.
I figure OK. So again we screen-share and I see the guy is moving my cursor all over the place and code is flying by. Then he shows me a series of code and explains that the computer is very infected but that he can fix it but it will take a while. He was going to start the process and I was not to turn it off.
Then a bit later he asks if there is a Wal-Mart nearby. By now I am starting to get suspicious – my spider-sense is starting to kick in but I’m thinking wait now, to begin with I phoned them, this wasn’t a cold call, so I just wasn’t sure anymore. So for the moment I went along.
I feel a little silly about this, no a lot silly about this, but I did what he said. I drove up to Wal-Mart supposedly to get a piece of software, and he was going to check on the specific details and call me back, once I got there. He called as I arrived at the store and he asks me to buy three Steam cards at $100 each. I had no idea what a Steam card was but quickly found out it’s a gift card for computer games. Now my spidey-sense is in overdrive.
When I told him I was getting suspicious, and even though I was ever conscious that he was at that very moment accessing my computer, I said no, I wasn’t going to buy $300 worth of gift cards. He explained that while they are gift cards they are also used to buy software. I asked why he just couldn’t download the proper software. He said that was a good question. He didn’t though often any kind of good answer. His new request is that I buy $100 in iTunes gift cards. I again said no, so he said come back home and he’ll try to figure out some other why to fix my computer.
Back home – he calls again. This time profusely apologizing. He said he never should have asked me to buy the cards; that this is a usual method used in the United States only, not in Canada, and he didn’t realize I was Canadian. He switched to whether I wanted the $149 one-year protection plan or the $199 three-year protection plan.
Our relationship was deteriorating quickly, kind of like Trump and Mitch McConnell when McConnel realized Trump was a con man, like the guy on the other end of my phone. I told him I now realized he was scamming me, which prompted a whole new script. Suffice to say it didn’t help. I said I was going to check with my IT guy. He said he would phone back the next day – yesterday.
By this time I got in touch with my IT guy, Chris Duffie of Terra Consultants (highly recommend him by the way), and he was here at the house when buddy called back. I told him I realized he was a scam artist and hung up. He called right back. I called him out again and hung up again. He called back a third time. This time Chris took the call and it must have been the two magic words he used that did the trick. No further calls……yet.
To summarize, and what fooled me, is that I ended up with this guy in the first place because I called Brother, and was put over to him. Or so I thought. Turns out it was a fake site that looked for all the world like the official Brother Printers website but in reality any calls to the number on the website go directly to a company called PC24Solutions. Goggle PC24Solutions and you’ll see what a scamming bunch they are.
Anyway, Chris did his thing on the computer – checking for what may have been placed on it, beefing up protections and changing passwords, and so far aside from that original $129 charge there hasn’t been anything unusual show up on my credit card. I am still quite aware though that they have my number.
In the end I lost the best part of a day where I had better things to do, but lesson learned. It seems these days being smarter than the average bear isn’t always enough. So this is my tale of woe, I’m embarrassed, but if telling this helps someone else, I’m good with that.
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