This really sticks in my craws, mainly because as some of you may know, I spent nine years chasing down and defeating online fraudmeisters for That being said, even I have to admit, These f*ckers are good.

Day before yesterday. I got up at around 9:30, got dressed, and checked in a PZ. When I went to a new tab to look for Allrecipes for the dinner I wanted to make, the whole world fell apart. A loud, staggered beep started, three alert windows from Windows Defender came up, and an irritating female voice kept repeating something like

Windows Defender has blocked intrusive malware attempting to use your IP Address to try to access sites where identity theft takes place. As a security precaution Windows Defender has locked down your cmputer. Do no attempt to shut down your computer, you could lose critical information that will delay your recovery. Call Microsoft Support at 877 ***-****

I’ve seen Windows Defender before, and the logo on the alert windows was the same walled castle with a barred gate. And my laptop was so locked down that I couldn’t even hit the freakin’ speaker key to get rid of the annoying noise.

The Windows Defender tech support dude was quietly, if urgently professional. He asked me for the case ID number on the alert, and then told me to turn orr and restart the computer. All looked normal. He had me pull up a window, and gave me several command prompts to enter to run various diagnostic scans. Then he told me that the reason I got the alert was that someone had attempted, and succeeded in accessing my network via my IP address. They could now cruise around in any device I had on that network, so don’t do anything new or contact anyone until the problem was repaired, or I could be putting someone else at risk. Then he had me download and run a network sharing app so he could remove the malware. While this may sound suspicious, I’ve actually had to do the same thing several times before on self initiated calls to legitimate company tech support workers. he call took a stressful hour and forty five minutes. Yesterday, my wife Teri’s unit got hit as well, which only added gravitas to the hacked IP address claim.

By now you see where this is going, and Teri and I look like boobs. But here’s what binds the cheese. When you sell someone life insurance, you don’t glowingly talk about the long, happy life they’re going to lead. Very solemnly you go on the offensive, and scare the sh*t out of them by talking about their wife and kids ending up on the street when you die at 41, if you don’t have insurance. These jokers do the same ting with a slick computerized panic scenario, and when you can’t even turn off the lousy speaker on your laptop, you tend to believe.

Here’s the McGuffin. Turns out that these ass clown wasted two hours with me. I have almost no programs or apps on my laptop, all I do on it is write for you guys. And I certainly don’t have my bank account online, I couldn’t read it if I wanted to. They nicked Teri for $200 from our savings yesterday, and tried again today.

That’s when Teri and I tipped, when she got a follow up call from her support tech, saying he had to remove other malware. This time she caught him in our bank account. What did I say yesterday? Be smart enough to know what you don’t know. While Teri was tied up on the phone, I followed my mantra, When you don’t know, call a pro. So I called my local Best Buy and spoke to my new best friend on the geek squad. He was able to confirm just from my description that this is an online scam that has been running for a while now, mostly operated by tech savvy con men rather than straight up hackers. They use the intimidating computer show to hook you in, then keep you compliant.

For starters, Never. Make. A. Phone. Call! Think about it. Norton Antivirus, or the legitimate Windows Defender, or Avast Antivirus don’t shut down your laptop! They stop the attempted incursion, and pop up a window that alerts you to the attempt. All these jokers have for the most part is your base IP Address, and the only real danger their malware threatens is to lock up your keyboard. They need you to call them so that they can use your compliance to get in in the first place. If you ever get an alert ordering you to call a number, ignore it. Shut down your computer, and restart it. Problem solved. An when you don’t respond, they won’t bother trying over and over again.

Like I said, I did this for a living, tracking and shutting them down, and I know it just keeps getting harder., because technology keeps becoming more fraudster friendly. In the last five years, very successful online scams have sprung up using incredibly authentic looking e-mails purporting to be from well known companies such as Netflix, Amazon, Walmart, and even American Express, with the dead perfect corporate logos, giving you a toll free number to call in order to unlock your account after the billing issue is resolved. No responsible vendor will give you a special number to call! They will tell you to contact them at their customer service number, which you can access from your bill or the website. That goes for institutions such as Social Security and Medicare. They will never call you, instead mailing or e-mailing you to call them at the number you should already have stored. As a general rule, if a company or agency gives you a specific number to call, delete the damn thing. If you have any questions, call the regular customer service number.

Because it isn’t just e-mails and online scams. I’ll give you a freebie here to keep my beloved readers safe. A couple of years ago Teri got a call on her cell phone from NV Energy, our power company. They claimed that due to automated billing errors, we were $800 short, and the power would go off in 30 minutes. How the hell can anybody who doesn’t work for NV Energy call from a NV Energy phone? Here’s how. There’s software out there you can download to your phone that allows you to create the ID header and the incoming calling phone number. We never did get that $800 back.

To close I’ll say this. As I said at the top, Teri and come out of this looking like a couple of rubes with stalks of hay hanging down from our hair, but I don’t care. I’ve had humble pie before, and it’s not too bad with chocolate sauce. And if we can save just one of you from what we’ve had to deal with the last two days, our newfound humility is worth it. But to prove my point, I’ll leave you with one more scenario. Suppose you get an authentic looking text or e-mail from Walmart, telling you that somebody just tried to use your online account to charge $1000 of electronics. Are you going to a) go to the Walmart customer service number on your contact list, or b) dial the toll free number that’s on the text or e-mail? Yeah. Sometimes it’s just that simple. They play on your emotions.

I thank you for the privilege of your time.

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  1. This happened to me a few years back. My gut said SCAM. So…..I decided to see their reaction. I called the number and got some “No speaky Engli too good.” Buddy said it would be about $200 to clean up the dog pile. I said, “I’ll get back to you.” I hung up and “shut ‘er down”. I let a half hour pass before rebooting my computer. No problemo, hombre. Aside from the grift, the “alert” noise was loud af all.

    • Yep…But their English skills and line of bullshit have only gotten better…When they scammed my wife, they never even QUOTED her a price to put everything right…They already HAD access to her laptop, and went in directly to get the money…Check out my follow up article…

  2. Back in the days when ‘640 KB is enough for anyone’ and the battery operated ones were luggable rather than portable, there was a saying “The only safe computer is one that not only has never been switched on, it’s one that is still inside its sealed carton”.

    Seriously, I’ve had the scam calls – but being a (now retired) tech, I knew already they wERE scams but I did have a bit of fun with their ‘tech support’. I would patiently listen to his instructions on installing their ‘repair’ access and go “But I don’t see a ‘C’ drive” and “I can’t see a start menu button”. Eventually the idiot asked me what version of Windows I was using and I just went “Windows? I use Linux” (silent scream at the other end and phone slammed down).. I do get the regular e-mail scam, but I use a hotmail account for registering on a site that I don’t actually need permanent access to (or ones where I am actually paying online for goods) so any e-mails about ‘your Norton/McAfee/Whatever has expired goes to that accounr and they usually call me by the nom de guerre that is oin that account and NOT by my real name).
    Just for fun – I actually received an e-mail inside the past week on that account from a ‘Nigerian Government Minister’ about a sum of cash that he wanted to share with me. They must have run out of princes LOL

  3. all bad cases of social engineering in the 21st century.
    when computer troubles are at hand only trust known channels
    of support and never react to activity on your pc w/o thinking real
    hard about the reasons you are seeing it.

    even clippy had your back in the old days.

  4. In the case of your last example about the warning of a fraudulent charge (I get them all the time), The first thing I do is log on to my credit card and bank accounts. 99% of the time there is nothing and I delete the email and flag it with my email provider as a phishing attempt.
    If there is a charge, I have the credit card company handle it and I get a new credit card.
    For online purchases, I use a lot of virtual numbers. They are linked to my main CC, but only work for the specified vendor, sometimes only for a single purchase. If one is compromised, I can disable it and the others remain unchanged.

  5. Murph – get a phone call blocker. If they got any of your phone #’s they NEVER STOP. They charged us $249 on credit card – hubby made the call BTW. I realized it was a scam – let the guy on the phone have it, stopped the cc charge and closed the account. Took the PC to Best Buy and got him an IMac instead. They have repeatedly called us saying we now owe them $6000 for 3 years of protection on the PC we no longer have. They will call on various #’s and I block as soon as I answer. This has been going on for 2 years.

  6. Murf, the most shocking thing I read in your article was that you actually paid someone $800 because they claimed they were with the power company and would shut off your power. If that wasn’t literally decades ago you and your wife are not very worldly wise, are way too trusting, and are just the sort of buyers of real estate I’m looking for on that beach-front property I have (kidding about the last one in case you really ARE too trusting).

    Phone scammers have been around for quite a while-I remember receiving b.s. calls wanting/ordering payment/etc. since…..late 1980’s, maybe early 1990’s. To date no scammer has gotten me. Of course it helps that I do not trust anyone on the planet so there’s that. My stock answer to just about anything ever asked of me is “let me look into it, I’ll get back to you. Click”.


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