I almost fell for a telephone scam



About a year ago, I was contacted by phone (a landline) by someone with what I thought was an Indian accent. He said he was from “Windows” and that a problem had been detected in my computer. And he showed me how to give him control of my computer so that he could fix the problem.

He also persuaded me to sign up with his company and they would protect my computer for just $150. I gave them a credit card number.

But not long after that, my computer crashed due to a virus and I had to replace it. This, of course, made me think that they hadn’t done a very good job of protecting me. So the next time they called (always it was someone with what I thought was an Indian accent), I told them I didn’t think they’d done a good job of protecting my computer and I didn’t want to have any dealings with them anymore.

They kept calling, about once a week, and I kept refusing to let them take control of my computer.

The calls eventually became less frequent, and then last week I got a call (again what I thought was an Indian accent) from a man who said the company was going out of business and he wanted to refund my $150. I told him to just keep it, but he was persistent, even saying at one point that something had been installed in my computer that would make it crash if they didn’t remove it.

I was skeptical, but also foolish. I let him talk me into accessing my PNC bank account, where, he said, I would see that the $150 was refunded to me.

I accessed my online banking account and saw that, actually, $1,850 had entered my checking account.

The man on the phone was horrified. He had accidentally hit a comma and an 8 to turn the $150 into $1,850. He would be fired, he said. Could I please help him?

While it seemed to me a very stupid mistake, accidentally hitting a comma and an 8 when you’re typing 150, and probably someone that stupid deserved to be fired, I couldn’t deny that there was now $1,850 in my checking account that hadn’t been there before.

He told me that I had to go to a Giant Eagle supermarket where they had a Western Union (he told me which one) and send him $1,600. He gave me a name to send the money to (Chunmin Zhang in China – so maybe he was Chinese and not Indian).

I started to go to that Giant Eagle, but I thought there was something very suspicious about this.

“I think I’m being scammed,” I told my son, Jesse, as I was about to leave for the Giant Eagle, and I told him what had happened. He agreed. But still, what to do? There was still that $1,850 in my checking account.

Meanwhile, they were relentlessly calling me and messaging me. Jesse suggested shutting down the computer and the phone line. I used his cellphone to call my bank. I asked them about the $1,850 that had suddenly appeared in my checking account. Where did it come from?

It came from a credit card, it turned out, and the woman gave me the credit card number. It was my credit card. They had used my credit card to put an extra $1,600 into my bank account and now they were insisting that I hurry to a Western Union office and send them that $1.600.

Scam confirmed.

We turned the computer and the phones back on and it didn’t take long for them to call.

“Where is my $1,600?” he demanded, in his Indian accent, which, I suppose, was actually Chinese.

“That was my $1,600,” I took great satisfaction in telling him. “It came from my credit card.”

“There is a problem with your computer,” he said. “It will crash shortly if you don’t let us save it.”

And maybe you can imagine how good it felt to tell him this: “If I have to replace my computer, it’s a price I will pay for being stupid enough to fall for your stupid scam.”

Submitted: November 07, 2015

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