It’s Called Scareware

From the errors of others, a wise man corrects his own. ~Syrus, Roman writer

Earlier this week, I was listening to music and reading blogs when suddenly on my computer screen four popups appeared warning me that Microsoft had detected hackers breaching my firewall and trying to hijack my machine.

I know what you’re thinking — ignore them. But a voice was reading the warnings — over and over — and I couldn’t “X” out of the ads. My heart started racing, and logic flew out the window.

Adding to the believability, I was advised not to enter personal information (online banking or shopping), not to turn my PC off, and to call a toll-free number so a certified Microsoft technician could remove the virus and Trojan horse, to free my machine.

I knew better. But I didn’t listen.

I called the number and connected with a foreign-sounding technician who assured me he was there to help.

Two hours later, the ads were gone — and so, sadly, was $150 of my hard-earned money.

I started kicking myself immediately. Buyer’s remorse, guilt, anger.

Fortunately, it was late in the day. I turned off my computer, unplugged my office phone, and started fretting. When my son Domer called that night and I confessed my stupidity, he wished me luck getting my money back. In fact, he predicted they’d probably clean out my entire account.

Of course, I didn’t get any sleep.

The next morning, I went to my bank, explained the situation, and learned I wasn’t the only one. The good news was the check hadn’t cleared, so they flagged it and told me I wouldn’t lose my money! They also closed the account, leaving just enough to cover my outstanding legitimate debts.

Then I called my Internet service provider and had them scramble my IP address.

Then I got a trusted computer technician to do a thorough cleaning of my laptop. He assured me I got off easy — some folks lose a LOT of money, in addition to personal information. And typically, these criminals insert malicious programs deep in the belly of a computer so they can attack again and again.

Guess my habit of not allowing Windows to store passwords for me paid off.

Anyway, all’s well once again, but I wanted to warn you about this aggravation. Don’t let yourselves get so complacent that you aren’t watchful of online dangers!

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27 thoughts on “It’s Called Scareware

  1. Same thing happened to my sister. Glad you got it cleaned up before any serious damage occurred. Next time turn the computer off.You can also get a program to clean malware. Usually, they are free.

  2. Ooh, they’re so tricky, aren’t they? And some of them manage to be so believable too. I second John – best thing to do is turn the thing off. I got my email hacked a while back and they tried to con bank details out of one of my contacts – fortunately the one they picked happened to be a lawyer who realised it was a con straight away and alerted me so I could alert everyone else on my mailing list. Took ages to change all my e-mail addresses and passwords though… grrr!!

    • Lucky you, getting an attorney to alert you to the con! I’m sorry this happened to you, though. These things can be incredibly bothersome — and expensive if we’re not careful. And I imagine it’s a good idea to change our passwords on a regular basis!

  3. My Mom was in the process of being nailed when she happened to call me. Because I knew someone who had been nailed I was able to talk her down before they came back on the line. I sorry you were scared and inconvenience and glad it wasn’t much more. I wish they would catch these crooks and make an example out of each and every one of them. The millennials are the most empathetic generation, but I suspect they will learn to be :-D.

      • HeeHee, I knew what you meant!! And you’re so right — Domer’s generation can be pretty callous about stuff like this. Probably goes with all those killings they’ve seen since they were wee ones on cartoons and video games!

    • Your poor dear mom! Bet she was as frightened (and later, ANGRY!) as I was. To think these folks have nothing better to do than prowl the Internet, tossing their enticing net and hoping for a haul. Gee, you’d think they’d have real jobs, wouldn’t you? On second thought, I guess that IS their job — yikes!!

  4. OMG, what a nightmare, Debbie! I had something similar happen to me (a few times). It was totally unsettling because I didn’t know what to do, so I just shut down my computer because it wouldn’t allow me to X out.

    Can you believe how sneaky and nasty these hackers are? And they kept getting more and more tricky as different computer programs come out.

    Glad to hear you got your money back AND where able to get someone to clear your computer.

    Thanks for sharing your experience because it will help others.

    Have a great rest of your weekend, my friend!
    X

    • Ron, you were smarter than I was to turn your computer off. Next time (and I’m sure there *will* be a next time!) I’m going to do just that!

      You know, I think that’s what’s so difficult — keeping up with the new bag of tricks these folks design. Just when we’re onto one scam, they come up with a dozen more. It makes it so hard to be online and simply enjoy oneself, doesn’t it?

      Hope your Sunday is wonderful! xx

  5. That is so scary! That happened to me on my work computer a few months ago. I did task manager and closed out all IE windows and rebooted. They have security so tight I had to request permission to get to a company website so I was fairly certain it was a hoax. Still I did get the heart racing panic. I have a feeling had it happened on my personal computer (which I seem to hardly use now, haha) my reaction might have been closer to yours. I’m so glad you were able to protect your bank account. (The scrambling the IP address is something new to me… had no idea there was such a thing :) )

    • Well, you’re at least fortunate this happened on your work computer. I imagine you have network administrators who are familiar with this sort of thing and the ways to avoid troubles. But isn’t it frightening?? You can see how I’d panic, knowing there was no one I could turn to for advice.

      Scrambling the IP address makes it look like you’re not there when they try to check back. It didn’t cost me anything either! I’m happy if I was able to help any of my friends avoid such a scam!

  6. I just go crazy.
    It’s like there are people out there just waiting to steal your money.
    I mean, that’s what their so-called jobs are.
    I just DESPISE thieves!
    So many hoaxes and dishonest and horrid people out there in virtual reality.
    xx

    • Kim, meanness in any form just makes me furious!! I told that bank employee I’d like to line all these deceivers up and take great pleasure in eliminating them. One by one. Sounds horrid, right? But I was so angry that they don’t have anything better to do with their time … or ours.

  7. Wow, this is truly frightening, Debbie. I have not had anything happen to me yet, but I have had friends that I have similar issues. I also had no idea about scrambling an IP address. Glad things worked out for you, these criminals will stop at nothing!

    • Thanks, Lana. You’re so right — they’re getting more and more clever and more and more devious! Almost makes me wish for the good ole days when writers used typewriters, ha!

  8. So sorry you had to go through that. I also had that happen but I got scared and shut my computer down. This has happened at least 3 times in a couple of years.

    My husband just had his computer encrypted and hard drive stolen. They were holding it for ransom. He lost everything,,,all his very important stuff. Google completely closed his account and refuse to tell him why. My son is the manager of a computer store and has been tracking these hackers and they are getting tracked down.

    There is a slight chance they may get caught and the accounts they stole be released. My husband is so upset because our son told Him to install the protection stuff and he did it on his PC but not his main computer. Plus he didn’t back everything up. He’s so mad at himself. These people wanted $3,000. One of my son’s customers had this happen and paid the money and they never sent him the codes to release his computer.

    • Aw, gee, Tanya, I’m so sorry to hear all this. First of all, it’s just so frightening to realize our important stuff is so vulnerable; then we get angry when we fall prey to the “bad guys,” who seem to have nothing better to do than wreak havoc and pain. I do hope your husband can get this mess resolved. You’re so wise to just shut the machine off — wish I’d thought of that!!

    • Pat, that’s a lovely thought, but I’m afraid even “techy” people can get sucked in by these devious people! I know I’m online a lot, but I never expected myself to be so dumb!!

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