Thursday, September 20, 2012

Scam Artists Beware! (Part 1)

Dishonesty is nothing new.  Especially dishonesty linked to money.  And it only seems to get more sophisticated along with advances in technology. 

So I wasn't too surprised last year when I received the first of many calls to come from a company claiming to support Microsoft Windows, claiming that they'd received an error message from my computer about malicious files that had invaded, and they had the means to fix it.

At first I was totally sucked in - I've seen those error messages pop up when programs close unexpectedly.  However, as I'm not the technology guru of the family, I often defer such issues to my wise and ever-computer-loving husband.  That wasn't good enough for the tech-center caller - he wanted me to simply follow his step-by-step instructions to fix the problem.  I became uncomfortable at this point and hung up.  When my husband came home that day, I informed him of the call, which he promptly googled.  Turns out, it was a scam.

The idea behind the call was to gain remote access to my computer, insert a virus, and then charge a fee ($160) to remove it.

Well, they called again.  And again, and again, and again.

At first, I asked them to stop calling.  That didn't work.  I then told them I knew they were scam artists (anything to get them to declare my number dead in their records and stop calling).  This only made them defensive and verbally abusive.  Affronted, I asked to speak to a manager, who was even more abrasive, cursing caustically.

Then I got smart.  I started playing along, pretending to follow their instructions just to keep them on the line, when in reality, my computer wasn't even on.  Ten or fifteen minutes into the call, they figured me out and hung up.  Then, finally, they stopped calling.

Until this week.  Almost nine months later, they're trying to scam me of my hard earned money, again!  I tried a different approach this time - I proclaimed they must be a scam because I have a Mac, not a PC.  The line went dead.

And still they call.  I started researching the issue again, and found this site.  Makes for an interesting read (I don't have time to watch the video, nor am I that invested in this issue).

Why am I telling you all this?  Because it comes at an interesting time of research for me.  I've read a few articles about the wolves in sheep's clothing that seem to be invading the world of writers (particularly in the realm of self-publishing, where some good people have been robbed of lots of money with the alluring promise of publication).

How does one fully protect themselves from scams that aren't as clear cut and identifiable as they may have once appeared to be (hindsight is, after all, 20/20)?

Check back next week, because I'm going to do some more research, and share what I find.

In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment about resources you have found/used to help protect yourself and your work.

And watch out for these phone calls.  According to Microsoft, it never makes calls out to its customers.  Don't get robbed of your hard earned cash.

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