Official Barbara Kois Website
Trust Your Instincts

hacker

You can call me either gullible or stupid (I prefer the former), but here’s an amazing thing that happened to me recently.

 

I got the blue screen of death on my home computer twice after having Microsoft help me with a problem I was having getting email.

 

After getting the blue screen the second time, I called Microsoft for some more help, mentioning that this had all started after my service call for the email problem, which had been fixed via Microsoft’s free help service.

 

The tech person I talked to asked me a couple of questions and said that my issue could not be fixed through the free service (surprise!) and I would need to pay either $99 for a one-time fix or $149 for a year’s worth of repairs.

 

Goodbye, blue screen of death

Despite the advice of my grown children, who said I should not pay for this (but I had had two blue screens, after all), I gave my credit card number and purchased the $99 fix. All well and good. The technicians ran scans for literally three hours, at the end of which they pronounced it fixed. It turned out I had had a Trojan malware worm-type thing, despite my McAfee subscription. So Vijesh, the Level 2 technician who had pronounced my computer cured, said he would call me the next evening at 7:00 p.m. Central time to be sure I hadn’t gotten the blue screen again.

 

The next night I was talking to a friend and colleague and I told her I had to hang up at 7:00 because Microsoft was going to call me. While we were talking, I got a call at 6:40, which I ignored because I knew that Vijesh would call at 7, so I could talk with her until then.

 

Vijesh called me back at 7:20 and instead of checking my computer, he said he would call me again the next night at 7 to be sure everything was okay. Not sure why the delay, but I said okay.

 

So the next night, I got a call at 5:40 p.m. and caller ID just said “out of area.” Since the Microsoft call had come in the night before at a different time from the one I expected, I picked it up, being thankful I was at home since I usually get home from work much later than this.

 

Under attack!

I could barely make out what the person was saying due to language differences, and I admit that I am slightly hard of hearing. But he said something like, “Your computer is being attacked. Microsoft has had alerts letting us know that this is happening and we need to get into your computer to block this from damaging your computer.”

 

Being dumb but not that dumb, I asked why the calling phone number said “out of area” and was told that Microsoft uses different numbers to call customers back, especially at peak hours. I asked to speak to a supervisor. The “supervisor” came on the line and I asked for the incident number and (stupidly, I admit it) said, “Last night I talked to Vijesh and he was going to call me back tonight.”

 

The fake supervisor said, “Oh, I’ll connect you with Vijesh now.” Good.

 

A Vijesh impersonator came on the line and said, “This is Vijesh. How are you this evening, Barbara?”

 

Relieved, I asked him what the problem was. Surely you can see how confusing this was since he was to call me last night and when he finally reached me he had only said he would call me back the next night. The situation was starting to seem like a cross between a Grimm’s fairy tale and the Twilight Zone where reality got very fuzzy indeed.

 

The evil impersonator

I swear his voice sounded like that of the real Vijesh from the night before. He said, “There’s been an attack on your computer and I need to get remote access so I can stop the attack for you and fix your computer.”

 

I said, “Why did your phone number come up as ‘out of area’?” and he said that’s what it does when they call customers back. I asked for his phone number and the incident number and he said he needed to stop the attack right now and would give me that information in just a minute.

 

Dumbly (yes, stupidly), I followed his instructions and gave him access to my computer, all the while insisting that he give me the incident number and the Microsoft phone number. As soon as the access connection was established and I was still asking for the information, he said he’d call me back in 15 minutes. I again reiterated my request for information and he hung up.

 

Finally, I got it. I immediately turned off my computer and asked for help from my son (kindly refer to Ask a Kid!) and he helped me unplug the computer and all its accoutrements.

 

I then put in a call to Microsoft, waited for quite a while, and while I was waiting the real Vijesh called me with his phone number showing up on caller ID as Microsoft. I picked up via call waiting and told him what had happened.

 

He didn’t smirk at my naivete, at least not in a way I could detect it, and he checked my computer and said to check my bank account and credit cards for the next several days. He said it looked like I had turned the machine off in time to prevent untold damage, for which I am thankful.
I asked if this scam had anything to do with my two recent Microsoft service calls and he said no, these things just happen randomly.

 

Not sure I agree with him, but I hope to do better next time in listening to warning signals and getting out fast.

 

Maybe you should too.