Friday, October 23, 2015

Scamming Across Borders

Has This Ever Happened to You?

Epiphany at The HOC
by Jala Magik
            The first time it happened, my wife answered the phone. It was some guy from the IRS, he said, with a concern about some questionable reporting of our income which they needed to look into.
            This scared my wife—she does the taxes—which alerted me to pick up another phone and listen in. His accent was not American, but I couldn’t identify it. I heard him tell her that our difficulty could be resolved, he was sure, if we would go to the bank and put all our money in an account whose number he would give us. There it would stay until our records were cleared of suspicion, and we could have our money back. Possibly even in 24 hours.
            My wife was certainly not comfortable with this. Could she have the situation explained in writing? The man scoffed at her resistance, threatened reprisals if she wouldn’t cooperate. Did we want a law suit with the IRS?
            Now I was getting scared. I covered the receiver with my hand and called to my wife in the next room, “Hang up and call the bank.” She told him she was not going to cooperate any further. He seemed startled, said, “Who’s there? Why did you change your mind?”
            She hung up. We were both rattled and kinda pissed.
            We called the bank. They told us to rest easy, nothing like that was possible. The reassurance was soothing. But how did guy get her name and phone number?
            We considered reporting it, but to who? Police? This isn’t local, it’s possibly international.
            Our ongoing life soon covered it over. We had more interesting things to do than file a nuisance complaint.
—————
            That was about two months ago. Today—Oct. 22 around 5 p.m. (EDT)—I answered the phone. A man with a non-American accent asked for my wife. I said she was not available. He said he was a technician from Microsoft with some urgent news about our Windows 10 computer. That’s my computer. He said it was in a dangerously vulnerable state which at some imminent moment would cause me irreparable damage, like massive identity theft, unless I followed his simple instructions.
            I was quite suspicious, but he was very insistent, and like most who use computers, I don’t know how they work. Yet I’m increasingly dependent on mine, and I know what it’s like when a computer crashes. It’s a hassle I don’t need.
            So I listened to what the guy had to say.
            He directed me to open some programs I didn’t even know were in my computer. It took awhile, because I couldn’t understand his accent very well, but he was very persistent and finally guided me to a small screen which had over 10,000 red-alert Error messages listed. This, indeed, looked dire to me, so after much back and forth on what I should click on, my friendly technician guided me to a screen where I was to type an internet address he gave me, and I typed it. Then he told me to click on open. 
            I should have written the address down. But it was like nothing I recognized, certainly not a Microsoft address. I saw him leading me to a website where he could get into my computer. He wanted to steal my information, not protect it, as he kept saying.
            I told the guy we were through, I thought he was a scammer, and I hung up. He called me right back, I picked up, and we had another short exchange of some heat, since it became obvious he didn’t know my name. He knew my wife’s name and assumed they were the same. But they’re not, and she has an iPad, not a Microsoft computer.
            Once I got all this clear in my mind, I hung up the second time and turned on the answering machine. Sure enough, he called again and threatened bad outcomes for thirty seconds until our machine cut him off with a beep. Good riddance to bad garbage, as we used to say.
            Later I looked more closely into what all those error messages are about. They seem like routine reports, a log of the machine’s actions when an error occurs in a program or online. I looked at a number of them randomly. They seem to be systemic, the result of unforeseen glitches in an increasingly complex technological environment. How does this put my computer at high risk?
            On the other hand, what is this information for? Who needs it, and for what?
            At least one thing is clear, though. My wife’s information has been breached. I don’t know enough about iPads to make a diagnosis, but she reminds me that her name is on the Verizon account. So if there’s a breach, is it at Verizon?




3 Comments:

At 10:23 AM , Anonymous Bud said...

Welcome to the club! This has been going on for quite awhile. The IRS guy calls me at least every other week, with the Microsoft guy more often. Regarding the IRS guy: the real IRS will never contact you by phone, always by snail mail. If I'm in a playful mood, I'll let the guy (always with an Indian accent) do his pitch. I ask them which IRS--federal, state, local. This confuses them a bit. They then switch you to another so-called sheriff. I put the phone down and get some coffee. After awhile, I pick up the phone and tell them "do you realize that you're talking to an agent of the FBI, and this conversation is being recorded?" Boy, do they hang up fast!
Regarding the Microsoft guy (also Indian): your PC always stores error codes that the real Microsoft can use to diagnose problems. This scam directs you to a web site that downloads an executable file that gives him control of your PC. Don't ever do this! If I'm in a hurry, I just ask him for his Microsoft certification number (no such thing). They usually hang up. Otherwise, I'll pretend to type what he says, but somehow can't get it right. Can drag them along for quite awhile, since they think they've got up. Once I get bored, I call them idiots and hang up. If you think these guys are a pain, wait until they steal your identity. They hit my bank account and a credit card! Everyone I know has been hit. The price of our modern society.

 
At 9:49 PM , Blogger kate loving shenk said...

They are scamming older adults. Someone told me about the IRS scam some time ago. Total Idiots.

 
At 12:56 AM , Blogger Delaney said...

They must be desperate a) to prey on people as they try to do and/or b) to think those schemes would really work. Or am I over-estimating the average older adult?

 

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