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By Paul Bendix

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About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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I Was Internet Scammed

Uploaded: May 2, 2014
Utterly embarrassed, I admit to falling for an Internet phone scam. Well, not quite. I bailed out just in time. Still it was a close call.

Busily at my desk one morning, my landline rang with someone purportedly from Microsoft's security department. Was my computer running slowly? Did I know I'd had a major security breach? Well, all this sounded plausible. Sort of. And who was calling me?

An authorized Microsoft service provider. Sir, are you the only person using this computer? Has someone other than yourself been using it? Would you mind downloading a diagnostic tool?

Perhaps it was the rapidfire delivery. The plausible mix of legitimate questions and remedial steps. And the speed. This "technician" seemed authentically in a hurry to fix my problem and move on to the next.

As for the diagnostic tool, this proved to be one of those take-over-your-computer-remotely bits of software. Which, and I relay this cringingly, seemed to add an air of legitimacy. Anyway, first thing I knew, there it was, a list of downloaded files. Some of which had a yellow triangle with "caution." There was quite a long list.

Unfortunately for the technician, if he can be called that, things veered slightly toward excess. "Oh, my God," he intoned more than once. For a techie guy, he doth protest too much...reminding us all that Hamlet, while bad at time management, showed promise in Executive Recruiting.

The caller had flashed me a screen full of his credentials as a Microsoft Certified Technician. While I kept impatiently intoning "what should I do"...we got to that. What I should do, naturally, was to buy his $220 security solution. Great idea, I told him, and let me just check with Microsoft, then I'll phone you back.

Why waste time, he wanted to know. By now, of course, I knew all I had to. I hung up, then promptly went to the Microsoft website to try to report the incident. Eventually landing on a Federal Trade Commission website. Fortunately, I'd retained a lot of info in my web browser. The scam artist had put it there, after all.

Am I unusually gullible? Or just awfully casual? Either way, I'm awfully embarrassed.

Comments

Posted by software attorney, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on May 7, 2014 at 9:27 am

Paul - Thanks for sharing your story! I've never heard of this scam, but I have heard of plenty of others. The software company I work for has been used as a cover for scams, and I end up receiving phone calls from victims or potential victims wondering what our company has to do with the scam (nothing). It's always hard to receive the calls from the people who have already been scammed, who wonder what we can do to help (again, nothing).

Thank you for sharing your story and making more people aware of the various scams that are out there. You shouldn't be embarrassed -- just relieved that you didn't go all the way through the scam process. And you should feel appreciated by your community for speaking up.


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