I could have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.I had just downloaded an owners manual for our heater and the computer screen popped up a Windows Defender logo saying my computer had been infected with a virus and my computer would be shut down and disabled to prevent this virus from spreading unless I called the flashing red number. There was a voice that repeated “You must call the number listed immediately. Do not turn off your computer.” The screen was frozen.
Startling, to say the least. So I called the number. (My first mistake!) The man answered “Microsoft support.” He gave me his name and employee ID number and asked what was going on. I told him. He asked a lot of questions, many technical in nature I didn’t know. He kept me on the line and had me download some software and he told me my IP address, email, phone and financial information had been hacked. He asked “Do you know what it means that your IP address has been hacked?” He spelled out doom and gloom. He was very conversational and among other things asked about what financial companies I use. I told him. He had me check my account at one of them, which I did. He said since my phone had been hacked he would put me through to that company on a “secure Microsoft phone line” so I could verify any unauthorized activity. He asked me to give him the customer service number of the financial place and he would “dial” it for me.
He “put me through” and I talked to a person who answered “Customer Service”, asked for my name, the last four digits of my SSN and birthday. He knew how much I had in my account. He said there had been questionable inquiries from Texas, then Mexico about my account. He said that they could not guarantee that my accounts were safe so I should move the entire amount to a bank account. I questioned this and he repeated that my money was no longer safe and I should move it until they could resolve this. I questioned again and he said to move just a smaller portion of the account. I said that I’ve got to think about this and hung up.
I know, I know. I feel embarrassed and stupid because it is obviously a scam. Every part of this was utter nonsense, but I bit. The confusion and panic they created made me vulnerable. Thankfully, my wife was there to question what was going on.
These guys are good. When I’ve heard of scams like this I thought “not me!” In real time, it happened so fast and they were so convincing that I got pulled in. I felt safe when the fake financial guy knew about my accounts. I now know that he was sitting next to the first guy and could see everything that was on my screen.
I called my financial company myself after I hung up. Talked to their fraud department. They said no financial institution would ever tell people to pull their money out and transfer it to a bank. Again, no financial institution would ever tell people to pull out all their money and transfer it to a bank!
Bottom line is that when something like this pops up, turn your computer off immediately. Call a computer tech to clean your computer. I hope this can help others avoid this scam.
• Larry Olson resides in Juneau.