Hey Pal. Wowzers. I have a question for you, your lady, and what seems to be the entire world. You guys know Breaking Bad isn’t real right? I have never seen an episode and I am not sure whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. Well, I hope you get through the next two weeks guys. I have my own sad and disturbing tale to tell about bad people doing bad things. However, mine is not in the land of make believe. Mine is some real ass s$&@. As comedian T.J. Miller might say, “I got some real juice for you. DRINK IT UP!!!”
I can’t believe it but I am the victim of a scam. You hear about it all the time. People taking advantage of the ignorance of others. Usually it is some 80 year old lady who listened to the wrong person and thought she was doing the right thing. Well, I am that 80 year old lady. I never thought it would happen to me. I feel so stupid. I am going to swallow my pride now and tell my story. I hope that in me telling this story that others can avoid falling into the pitfall that I did.
I just bought a new computer. All was fine except for 2 things. Windows 8 is a bugger. So different, and navigating it is so frustrating, but I’m sure I will eventually adjust. The other more pertinent issue was that my Internet connection kept on getting kicked out for no apparent reason. In a strong moment of frustration I decided to call the HP Help Centre.
I should pause to state that as I look back on it, I now see the many red flags and mistakes that I should have picked up on, but when in anger, bad decisions are made.
I could not find the HP support number anywhere so I Googled it (mistake). I clicked on the first match I saw thinking I was calling the legit HP for help (mistake). I got someone I thought was an HP technician. I told them my problem. They immediately started to throw me around from technician to technician trying to help me (red flag). My level of frustration accelerating. Finally someone stayed on the line. Relief. He got me to install a linking program so that he could see and control my computer from his (big mistake). This was my biggest error, but I didn’t think twice about it. At work IT guys do this all the time, so it was not new to me. So now he is flying around my computer opening and closing this and that. I really have no clue what he is doing. I am just trusting him (mistake). While he is “helping” me, I start getting all these error messages. He asks me if my computer is slow. I say, “I guess”. I had only had it for two days. It shouldn’t be slow. But the Internet kicks out and these errors pop up and I think “sure, it’s slow.”
Next he starts opening up these windows on my computer that show these background operating files. I now know that these windows are all fake. He is opening up these fake windows from his end. He must have had some extended view. I am seeing my display, but he has another screen and he is throwing all these fraudulent windows in.
He shows me files and records that say they are from Japan and China and opens another window showing operating files that have stopped working or say they are corrupt. All fake, but I think they are from my computer. He starts drawing pictures on my computer to show me how my old computer corrupted my new computer the second I connected into my network. He is literally drawing a diagram on my screen. He opens my web browser and takes me to the Wikipedia page on Trojans and viruses and underlines words like “corruption”, “crashing”, and “identity theft” saying that people are on my computer right now taking my information. “Well of course they are”, I think. I saw it with my own eyes. At this point I am flipping out. My new computer is totally F@$@ed. What the hell am I going to do. I ask him, “is this why I am losing my Internet? Can you fix all this?” He says, “yes, of course, we can fix all this.” I am relieved. HP help is so great. I am so impressed.
Then he says, “I can fix it for $200.00 and I can fix your old computer for $150.00 (big red flag). He says because it is a software issue, HP will not cover it. It would take him 45 minutes to do the whole thing. All my problems would get fixed and he would set it up so no outside user could ever get back in. Now the wheels are turning. At this point I start to think, “he isn’t from HP.” I call him on it. I say, “that is a lot of money, are you just trying to sell me a service?” He starts to get defensive stating that he is a Microsoft Certified Professional (red flag) on contract to HP and he is very concerned for my computer. He is actually getting fairly aggressive (red flag).
At this point I am done. I don’t feel comfortable giving him the money. I tell him I need to think about it and I will call back if I want to do it. I ask him for the reference number of this call so I can give it when I call back. He doesn’t have one (red flag). He says he will remember my name. I say “that is not good enough. What is your name.” He says “Raj.” I say, “shouldn’t I get your full name.” He spells it out for me and gives me an extension to ask for. He quickly deletes all the stuff off my computer and we hang up.
Keep in mind that I still think that my computer is f&$#ed. My head is just spinning at this point. “What the f$%# am I going to do?” I decide to go the Best Buy where I bought the computer and pay for the Geek Squad to fix it. I am not two sentences in with the Geek Squad guy when he tells me I was scammed and that the whole encounter was fake. Everything. Likely my computer is totally corrupt now, and while he had me on the phone, he was trying to take personal info from me. Good thing I had basically nothing on it as my computer was only 2 days old. The Geek Squad guy goes on to tell me that some people come to him with 10 year old computers that had all their information on it. They paid the $200 thinking these scammers would fix their computer and lost everything. I also heard that sometimes these guys threaten the person by saying if you don’t pay the money they will totally ruin their computer forever. I guess they can do that if they have control of your computer (just like I gave him).
So, $150 to those fabulous Geeks to wipe all traces of this guy off my laptop, reinstall everything, and put a new Antivirus software on it. A lesson learned I guess. I ended up paying in the end, but it could have been worse. Mostly, I feel really stupid. As I walk through the whole experience in my head I realize how crazy it all was and how I should have just stopped to think, “what the f&$@ am I doing”. I can’t believe I gave this guy complete access to my computer. Holy S&@$!! Why did I do that?
I hope that the stink of this event doesn’t linger. From what I understand these guys are not really hackers. So future threats are unlikely, but I really have no idea. I had never heard about this scam, but apparently it is very common. Kids get hired by these Indian tech services and they get a lot of money to fleece the innocent. I found a great blog about this. Someone who was hired by a scam tech services took the high road and quit. He wanted to expose the scam so he wrote a blog about what these guys do and how you can fix your computer. Worth reading and spreading around if you want to get the word out.
Aside from being victimized, I found the whole experience sort of interesting. How they created confusion by throwing me around to different assistants. How I blindly accepted their expertise and let them have their way with me. How rage and frustration caused me to make very poor decisions. How bad people can manipulate the fears of good people to get what they want. I hope that I will be a little more skeptical the next time. About everything.
Well Pal, that’s it. I hope that our many fan will read this and he or she can help spread the word about this SCAM. I fell prey to it. Maybe this cautionary tale can be an example so no one else does.
By the way. The problem with my internet kicking out was related to my old WiFi. 7 hours of fumbling on the install of a new router and another call into Tech Support (legit this time) my computer is working fine now. sheeeesh!