How to Protect Yourself. Part 1.
2016 got off to a rocky start. Seven days into January, and I had already fallen victim to a phone scam. Dagnabit!
However, unfortunately, I am not alone.
In the research I’ve done since this “identity theft” happened, I have been truly appalled to find out more about this “growth industry.” 1 in 6 New Zealanders got a call from scammers in the last six months.
My sister, who works as a lawyer in the U.K. tells me the scammers could ruin my credit rating, scam more people through me, and that they will sell my personal details to those dastardly people (my words, not hers!) who compile “sucker lists.” Happy New Year to me!
I’m not an idiot. So, how did this happen? I know, like every other adult who owns a computer or a phone line these days, that you never give people your financial details or anything else over the phone or the net. And yet, within ten minutes on the line with these people who were allegedly from “Microsoft Global,” I was giving them everything. That’s how slick they were, so be warned. This is what to watch out for.
*First Warning Sign: they will say they’re from a big reputable company, because you’re more likely to take them seriously. Microsoft was the most commonly-used ruse by the scammers I heard about in my few days of reading up about it, because most people trust a giant corporation.
*My Tip: ask for the phone number of their office as you just have to quickly go, do whatever. Then, ring the number. And also ring Microsoft and ask them about it too.
I hope that by sharing my story, it may perhaps prevent someone else from being sucked in by scammers, as I was. My sister and I listened to a talkback show that had been recorded from our National radio station, which was on this same subject. I noticed that all the stories from people who had been scammed had similar veins or threads. That was when it hit me that it might be helpful to others to tell my story in its entirety, as the same points were echoed again and again.
This is our version.
The phone rang at 7.30 p.m. I said to the nice lady that it was right upon story time and bed time for the boys. But she was insistent that Microsoft Global (MG) were getting alerts that our computers would be accessed by hackers if we didn’t act immediately.
*Second Warning Sign: they want you to act immediately.
*My Tip: ask them for a physical office you can go into the next morning. Any sizeable business like MG will have a physical address in your town. Ask for their address so that you can do so. If they hedge at all, they’re dirty rotten scammers.
This lady told me our computers would crash within two days.
The callers to the National Program’s talkback on this subject had similar scary stories, something that would get their “fight or flight” mechanism activated. People were told that their computer ‘had a virus that would spread to every other computer and device in their neighbourhood,’ or that their computer ‘had a virus that would spread to every contact in their email account,’ and so on. Therefore, urgency is placed upon the situation, and fear of what could happen, which puts you on the “back foot.”
They made me feel afraid. I felt impelled to follow the steps provided by the comforting rescuer being in this case, “Microsoft Global.” When I asked their “technician” a question at one point, he replied, ‘Yes, of course, anything – I’m here for you.’ He was such a sweet young guy.
*Third Warning Sign: they will scare you, then offer to rescue you.
*My Tip: again, see the tip above. Whatever it is, it can wait till morning. If they say it can’t wait, then, you know that they’re dirty rotten scammers.
I told these people all my details. They got everything. We even signed me up for an account with Western Union and I tried to pay for a new “warranty” for our laptops, but by then my bank had closed and the payment wouldn’t go through. I arranged that the folk from MG would ring me in the morning.
*Fourth Warning Sign: they always want money, too. It seems just a small amount, at only $100-250 for three years warranty. But if they’re harvesting a few hundred dollars on each phone-call, they’re making a small fortune on the bogus repair work, as well.
*My Tip: Say you don’t want a warranty, and the reaction will probably be a stepping-up of the pressure on you to buy. This is where you will start to see the lack of professionalism. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized the people I had spoken to had at times acted less-than-professional. You guessed it, they were dirty rotten scammers.
The man from MG requested remote control of our computers. A sign popped up on my screen which said, “The service from us here at TeamViewer is free. Thank you for playing fair.” He assured me they would do the necessary scanning and repairs on our computers while we slept. Meanwhile these criminals were harvesting all the rest of our personal details. Horrible isn’t it.
We need to protect ourselves from these people by sharing our stories. Because there is strength in numbers and power in information and networking.
I’ll share Part Two next week with tips on what to do if you are scammed. Call it “the before and after” advice column!
Here’s to halting the growth industry of scamming in its tracks. How do we do that? By talking about it, as I have done through this post.
Have you ever been rung by a scammer? Share your stories below!
Happy New Year!
Talk to you later,
Yvette. K. Carol
“Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen” – Goethe