Caution: Elaborately planned hoax could have cost Santa Paula man plenty
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: December 26, 2012
An elaborately planned hoax could have cost a Santa Paula man plenty when he initially fell for the scheme to separate him from his money.
The victim asked not to be identified, but he does want to caution others against being taken.
“About three months ago my computer was hacked,” sending out emails with advertising links to the victim’s contacts. At the same time he received a phone call from a man “saying my computer was on the verge crashing... and,” perhaps coincidentally, “I was having serious computer problems. “I was a desperate, afraid of losing my computer,” so he agreed to the $200 repair.
“They literally took over my computer, it seemed very legitimate... I had no further problems.” That is until November 19 when the victim again was contacted.
“I got this call from Microsoft,” who informed the Santa Paulan he was to be reimbursed for the service that was supposed to be free of charge. “We went online, they gave me codes,” then a legitimate looking Microsoft website “popped up.”
The Microsoft caller, who “had a strong accent,” asked for information needed to arrange the reimbursement, including the credit card number and pass codes. “I was really hesitant to do so,” but, the victim said, “I was looking at the Microsoft screen and they were literally in my computer with me... they could even move my cursor around.”
After he gave them the credit card information he was told there was trouble processing it and another credit account was needed to process the reimbursement. During this the victim was asked “all sorts of personal questions,” such as the names of his grandchildren, information he now realizes could be used to try to crack passwords and security questions on bank and other financial accounts.
The next day another helpful Microsoft customer service “representative” called and apologized, because yet another credit card was needed for processing. The man refused and was told he would receive a check.
“Suddenly, I thought to call VISA,” and the victim was told three withdrawals via Western Union of $251 each had been made on his card. When he explained the situation the customer service representative advised to immediately cancel the card. “That was inconvenient as hell, especially at Christmas time,” said the victim.
But the scammers weren’t through with him: a few days later he was called and told they still “wanted to resolve of the problem. I said I was robbed by them and cancelled the card... he was really upset and acted like it was all a mistake.”
The next day the victim’s wife picked up the phone and a man claiming to be from Western Union said “his job was on the line,” and he tried to cajole her to get online to access financial information. She told him off.
“What is so appalling is the way they represent themselves,” said the victim. “They’re on the computer with me operating on what looked to be the official Microsoft documents.”
A costly purging of the victim’s computer was required and an expert offered advice about never letting anyone initiate an online or phone conversation that is going to cost you money. Not only will you lose money, but also time and effort.
“I changed my passwords on everything ... even if I only have to pay $50 on the charges, just having to go through this exercise is scary. I was told by the bank to get in touch with all the credit agencies” to check for other fraudulent charges. The victim also signed up for a credit oversight service to alert him if others try to access his credit or bank accounts.
“It’s been a traumatic, trying experience, I hope I’ve seen the end of it.... I called the police and did a report, but they said it’s very unlikely there’s anything they can do,” especially, said the victim, as the scam likely originated outside the United States.