Internet Scamming is a 21st Century Art Form

According to the FBI, victims of online fraud lost $800M to scammers last year. Having reported on hundreds of scams over the 13 years that I posted the Police Log on Holliston Reporter I was sure that I knew all the devious games those bastards play. Not.

Recently while searching the internet for old car parts, my computer screen was taken over by Microsoft and I was advised that my computer has been hacked, all my files will be deleted and all my personal information will be stolen. Microsoft advises me not to turn off my computer or try to delete the message at this action will destroy everything on the computer, including my backup system. Microsoft said that my antivirus contract had run out and I am no longer protected but Microsoft can fix it for me since I have been a loyal customer for so long. All I have to do is call the toll-free number on the screen to get the help that I need.

I’m not falling for this scam so I try everything I can to delete this screen, but nothing works short of pulling the plug. But Microsoft said not to shut it down! After about 10 minutes of messing around I decide to call the number. What can it hurt? There is the familiar Microsoft logo on the screen and the number to call. So, I did.

This guy tells me that it is his job to rid my computer of this hacker and restore my virus protection. I ask him if he works for Microsoft. He asks me how my day is going. Without really answering the question he tells me that companies like Microsoft hire “middleman” to address these issues for them.

I’ll save you from the boring details of the 75-minute phone call while I was transferred from one expert to another and the resulting $499.00 charge to my credit card (note that it was not a debit card). During the call I called an expert who told me that I was not dealing with Microsoft or anyone authorized by Microsoft and he told me to just shut down the computer. Then I called the credit card company and told them to cancel the charge as it was a fraud. They did cancel the charge and my card and sent my info to their fraud department.

These crooks called twice a day and sent emails every day for two weeks saying that they were sorry that I was not 100% satisfied (0% is more like it) with their service and that if I called them, they would make things right. Right.  I know how they ask questions to record you saying “yes” and then substitute your “yes” for “no” when they ask you to agree to buy their services. They even called to say that they were putting a full refund in the mail; all I had to do was call to confirm the address. Right.

At this point you are either thinking “what a dummy” and you would be correct or you are looking for advise but obviously I’m not the one to give it. But I will offer this one bit of advice: if you call the number and are asked to allow them to access your computer – HANG UP.

During the Depression of the 20th century Woody Guthrie included these two lines in his song Pretty Boy Floyd:

“Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.”

I’ll add another line for the 21st century:

And some with a keyboard!

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Paul Saulnier

1 Comment

  1. Sue Schnapp (SS) on November 22, 2019 at 8:29 am

    This exact same scam happened to a friend of mine. She knew not to use her credit card but scannned them a check. She then told someone what she has done and they said to go to her bank immediately and have everything changed so they couldn’t take all of her money. They called her forr weeks afterwards.