I got crushed by a cybercriminal

By Pam Dillon

Letters image: © almagami – Fotolia.com

You know those mornings?
It was the typical rundown.

A lunch:

  • Banana
  • Apple
  • Carrot sticks
  • Almonds
  • Muffin
  • 2 cheese strings
  • Sandwich (warning: mustard must never touch bread product)
  • Juice box

Deposited at the front door. On the way out said door, with six seconds to spare: “Mom, two of my courses are cancelled for next year. What am I going to do?”
Kitchen tidied.
Another darling launched in an outward direction.
Bed made, including requisite games of hide-under-the-blanket and grrr-’n-pounce with the canine unit.
Dog:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Pee/poop/victory lap
  • Throw ball in backyard 50 zillion times (no ricocheting off picture window)

Wrangled into flop-position on the floor.
Early scramble over, it was sweet relief to sit at my desk, coffee at hand, with my eyes on the screen and my mind on work.
It was a Monday.  As I clicked on documents and plowed into the daily online routine, I was multi-focused:

  • $1500 for off-ice training + $350 for summer hockey + $50 for lacrosse + $700+ for golf membership =
  • The what-was-I-thinking girls’ weekend email: “Can I do taco night? Fish, chicken and shrimp tacos? (I can do beef too…) You can try my guac and two kinds of salsa. And lots of different toppings. Aaaand some surprises.”
  • How can the brakes be gone? I thought we just got new brakes.
  • Chess lessons are at 8 p.m. in the east end and hockey is at 7:30 in the west end, so I’m going to try…

The usual.
Email, Facebook, Twitter and open documents were sharing screen space and I was reading through a story, highlighting things to check, when the phone rang and I answered it.
“Good morning,” I said.
That’s when the Internet gangster reeled me in, worked me over and locked me out of my own computer.
He stole it, basically, as I sat oblivious.
It was my birthday.
It was malicious.
Total cost: about $1500.
Total required trips to 4 different tech retailers: 6 + 1 pending.
Major losses: email and attachments; contact information; equilibrium; trust.

 Black mask image: © Hugo Félix – Fotolia.com

 “Mrs. Dillon,” he said, identifying me by name and identifying himself as a security expert from Microsoft Windows tech support.
“Do you know your computer is infected with malware?”
Actually, I did know that. How did he know that?
He knew.
His voice was foreign, procedural, much like the voices I’ve heard when I’ve called for tech support myself.
He guided me to type this and open that so I could see and he could verify my computer had been compromised.
I saw a lot of little red error messages.
Next, I was to type in something-something and click on A. This was to confirm he was, indeed, from Microsoft Windows security.
An authentic-looking website showed up.
Then I was to go back to a previous window, type in a code and press command-whatever to pinpoint the breach.
By the time I realized I was being scammed, and the “manager” was on the phone, it was too late. When I refused to choose a Microsoft security option – there were different price points for this “service” – he threatened me a number of times. “You’ll be sorry.”
As I hung up the phone, the screen changed and a box appeared asking for a password I did not have.
It was about 10 a.m., when I was robbed. Upstairs, the door was locked.  Downstairs, in my home office, the assault was significant.
Like many people these days, I use a computer and the Internet to make a living.  Unlike some, I am naïve and technologically challenged.  What I have had loved so passionately about the Internet was:

  • The incredible life stories on blogs and websites
  • The wonderful, kind people on social media sites
  • The multitude of ways to make a difference and to make amazing new life connections
  • The constant, unlimited, incredible feast of information

From my cozy home office with my assistant close by, I did think the Internet was the candy store of a lifetime.  I saw the shelves behind the counter at the Dahl’s Convenience Store of my childhood, where red and green licorice laces, caramels, pixy sticks, jawbreakers and gumballs dazzled.

Was I wary of trolls and suspicious emails? Yes.
Bothered by the notion of nasty flame wars?  Yes.
Apprehensive, when I left well-intentioned comments, that I might sound shrill or petty? Yes.

Distressed by stories of online victim shaming, harassment and stalking? Yes.
It never occurred to me, though, that everyone is potential candy.
That answering the phone can pose a risk.
That a monster on the other side of the screen would attack me.
Now I know.

And I don’t ever want it to happen to you.

*Google Microsoft Windows phone scam to find more information.

 Candy photo: © luisrsphoto – Fotolia.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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