I Became a Victim to Scams and Hackers
My first exposure to the world wide web.
First of all I want to say that I am not a computer genius and I am still very much in the learning mode when it comes to dos and don'ts. However, I have always used caution and kept anti-virus software running as well as the updates recommended to assure safe internet use.
My first exposure to the world wide web was back in the 90s, using a device called a Webtv. It hooked up to your television and was great for basic web surfing and email. Problem was the Webtv soon became obsolete. It was slow and the browser was only capable of doing limited downloads. Any camera used had to be made especially for a Webtv and was so basic the display could only be seen by plugging it into the Webtv to view over the television screen. Basic meant no memory card. Pictures were saved on the Webtv. Some systems could be hooked to a printer and unless you printed the picture or sent it to an email address or uploading service you could not save them indefinitely. I lost many good pictures for not saving them elsewhere.
The next platform I used was an old hand me down desktop my son gave me. I got well acquainted with Windows 98. Again upgrading was required to stay up to date. I have upgraded many times since then and went from dial up to DSL. Sometimes I wonder if we paid the ultimate price for speed as at least the basics seemed safer browsing. But back in the day criminals hadn't discovered as many ways to attack people either. These days technology has opened up many doors and some of those doors house villains. Enter with extreme caution.
After over twenty years of using the internet for everything from a dictionary to a place to meet and greet friends and family I have never been victimized by hackers or scam artist. I thought I was smart enough to avoid all that. It's a hard lesson to learn, but never ever keep your guard down. You never know what thug is waiting for you to screw up.
The nightmare begins......
March 23, 2017, I am on my old faithful, Emachine laptop I've had since 2009. Old, yes, but always dependable. I have a paid anti-virus software as well as malware protection up and running or so I thought. I am still running Windows 7 as I don't really care for the Windows 10 and seldom use my new backup laptop because it has Windows 10. This particular night I am viewing social media, a trivia game site, a local blog and a shopping sight. All tabs are open on a reputable browser. All of the sudden a big alert covering half the screen pops up claiming to be Microsoft. I had no reason to think it wasn't Microsoft. The message was clear. I was hacked. The hackers had gained access to all my passwords, pictures, documents, etc. I was told to call their recommended security company immediately. They listed an eight hundred number. My computer was froze. I was told it was very important that this problem is fixed now before they have stole my identity as well as access to banking information. I guess you know I panicked and I called the security company.
The friendly technician informed me that foreign hackers from Russia and the Philippines had invaded my computer. He told me he and his repair technician cold fix it, clean my computer and install a state of the art security system that nothing could break through and at an affordable price. But this affordable price meant buying four years of security. It was $399, I really couldn't afford it, but I thought it was top of the line and it wasn't much more than I was already paying for anti-virus software. I was told anti-virus software would not stop hackers and only a security system like the one they were selling me would do the job. I agree to let them install the system, after all they had cleaned my computer for free.
The security company put a phone number for technical support at the bottom of my screen. I am to call them if any problems occur. I believe I am totally secure. My computer is working great. It seems just like new again. I was assured hackers had not taken any of my information that they could detect, but I was to stay alert to anything suspicious. So I go about my business, I change a few passwords, but not all of them. I'm not even worried that my bank or credit card accounts were in danger.
Another round for a gullible victim......"Ouch"
A month or so goes by, so far so good nothing suspicious that I was aware of other than somehow the support number had disappeared from the bottom of my screen. I think I must have done something to make it go off the screen, not sure what, but I wasn't alarmed about it being gone because I had written the number down on paper.
June 16, 2017, I check my checking account online to see if my payroll had gone in from my part time job grading eggs at a local chicken farm. Then I notice a charge of $199.99 for an electronic check made payable 6/13/2017 and posted to my account 6/15/2017 to GLOABLITHELP LLC. My local bank office had already closed as it was well after banking hours and was a Friday night. I think I'll go to the bank about it come Monday. The idea that hackers had my bank information was upsetting to me. I don't sleep well that night at all.
The next morning I call the banks 24 hour service number and explain my problem and I tell him about the hackers back in March. The bank's costumer service rep tells me he will freeze my account and I should call the security company and have them recheck my computer. I call the eight hundred number and talk to the same technician that helped me before, assuming I have already paid for four years of security. He confirms I have been hacked and not only that but all my security had been erased from my computer. Everything would need to be done all over again, clean up and downloads. I don't remember the technicians name but the system is Alpha Info System. It is presented as a Microsoft Clean up network. I really am not convinced Microsoft has anything to do with it at all. The only paper work I have on it is a notepad file, no real proof or receipt for what I had paid for other than a canceled electronic check. The only electronic check other than the bogus one I've had in years. I seldom write or approve any checks as there is little need to anymore. This sent another alert to me that maybe this fancy security system could be the problem, not the cure, but at this point I had little reason to accuse them of any wrong doing.
Clean up to my computer is done once more, now comes the down loads. I think I'm paid up for four years. The technician assures me I am the blame for this hack. I opened an email or entered a website giving them full control of my computer and it happened the day that the support number was erased from the bottom of my screen. I had to pay another $399. I told him I would be better off to junk the computer. He said my IP address had been hacked. It wouldn't matter what device I used. He said this problem needs fixed to stop these invaders. This time I pay with a credit card as my bank account is froze. So stupid, so gullible, and so embarrassed to think I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
I now have a security system installed to a computer that I don't dare use online anymore. At least not until I have the whole thing dumped and the Windows rebooted. I now use the backup laptop I avoided before. Guess, I'll have to get use to Windows 10 now.
Please don't let yourself become a victim of scams and hackers.
I had to change my bank accounts, credit cards, and business information on everything. I filed a complaint with the FBI and the bank has reported the fraud check. I've had to shamefully tell everyone how gullible I am. And I will make sure everyone knows it if it will save another person from becoming a victim as I was.
One thing I have learned well from all of this is to never take my guard down. Don't share stupid chain letters on social media or buy from places that don't accept Paypal unless you know they are trustworthy.
Imagine being a poor old widow lady living off her husband's social security and a part time job grading eggs at a chicken farm. What would anyone possibly gain by hacking my computer, other than robbing me of what little earnings I get? I'm sure other targets would have gained them much more to steal, but I guess thousands of us poor folk victims would gain them millions.
The financial stress was bad enough, but the emotional stress will linger much longer. I hated to tell my own kids about it. I was ripped off a thousand dollars that could have been spent for things I need. I am so embarrassed by it. I hope my story can save someone else from falling victim to scams. I hope I have learned enough to recognize a con when I see it the next time. This day and age there will be a next time. We can count on it. Fake news is the least of our worries.