I couldn't believe it when my dad, then in his mid-80s, called and, sounding desperate, asked for my help.
"Your mother has been scammed by some unscrupulous company that has sold her subscriptions to magazines she'll never read, trinkets not worth a dime, and who knows what else. I don't think she's all there when it comes to this stuff. But it seems as if she's gotten herself into a hole that she can't get out of."
I couldn't believe it. How could my mother, the most rational member of our family, fallen for such scams? I'd heard of folks preying on seniors, but I never thought my mother would be one of them.
"What am I supposed to do?"
Really, in addition to talking to her which I didn't relish doing, I had no idea how I'd get her out of the pickle she was in. It seems as if she'd signed some contract--make that contracts-- that obligated her to continue ordering junk that would ultimately be tossed in the garbage or to pay a hefty fee for unsubscribing.
To tell the truth, I don't remember what, if anything, I did. But I can still see the sheets of neatly-written company names, phone numbers, and orders that my father had put together to detail the extent of my mother's folly.
Flash forward twenty years. Here I am about to turn seventy-five (no celebration as I'd hoped because of the Pandemic) and I was scammed big time a matter of six weeks ago. It pains me to detail my fall from grace and reason, but here we go.
I own a Dell laptop that, as an aside, I really don't fancy. When I purchased the computer, I did what I normally don't do and paid for the priority service or whatever it's called so I could move to the front of the customer line and work with someone up the food chain. I figured the money would pay for itself. I didn't keep track of how long the service lasted but assumed it was a couple of years.
So, when I received an email from "Dell" telling me that, if I didn't pay the next year's subscription, I would automatically be charged $299. Actually, I'd gotten the same email a few weeks earlier and had deleted it immediately. But when it arrived again, I figured I'd better take a look.
That was my first mistake.
I checked the return address on the email as well as the name of the company, address, and phone contact. Then I went online and did a quick look. The company came up first on my Google search with a slick website and several positive reviews.
I figured things were on the up and up.
My second mistake.
From there, my day went from bad to worse. I juggled calls from the supposed head of the company along with Zoom meetings about my new website. My attention was scattered (as if it isn't, already), but that's not an excuse. I allowed this guy to lead me to some page on my Dell but, happily, as always, the Dell didn't cooperate. Yet another reason why I'd paid for the extra expert help.
I was then directed to boot up my iMac and try the whole process again. If only my Apple had sputtered. But, no, like all of my other Apple products, it fired right up. (No, this is not an ad for Apple.)
It was that $299 that stuck in my mind. The last thing I wanted was to be charged for a service that had apparently expired and one that I no longer thought I needed.
So, I kept going. And this is where I want to crawl under a rock to avoid all the "How could you?" and "What were you thinking?"
I gave this guy, this imposter, this slimeball access to my e of my online financial sites. Oh, please don't make me feel any worse than I already do. For a time, I sat staring as his cursor moving over my various accounts. By this time, sweat trickled down in between my breasts. What the hell was he doing?
"Stop!" I screamed. "I want you to stop!. If you don't, I'm calling the police." What the hell I thought the police would do is beyond me. But I needed help. The guy had control over my screen. In retrospect, I should have called my financial advisor or the security department. And I should have shut down my computer. Instead, I screamed. "Give me my computer back."
"Don't close your computer," this rat said. "I'm almost done."
Right. He was almost done trying, as I discovered later, to move $23,000 from one of my accounts to one of his.
I wasn't sure how to turn the computer off when I couldn't move my cursor to click on "Shut down." In desperation, I pressed the button on the back of my computer and managed to cut him off.
I sat on the floor in my office and cried. How could I have been so stupid?
Then I sprang into action and did what I should have done twenty minutes earlier. I notified my financial advisor who checked my account and saw that the money had not been withdrawn but mistakenly moved into another one of my accounts. Number One for the good guys. Then I was turned over to Security who immediately put a stop on all of my accounts and began the process of setting up another layer of protection, changing my User ID and password, and all that jazz. At that point, I couldn't be guaranteed that all was well. A complaint would be filed, and I would know in a day or two whether or not all was back to "normal."
Normal? I spent the next many hours changing all my passwords, checking all of my online accounts, praying that all would end well.
This saga does have a happy ending. My money is back in the intended account. There have been no hacks on any other sites where I've done business. And my husband and son have forgiven me for my stupidity.
There, I feel better now. It always helps to tell others when you've gone off the rails. And I can promise you that there isn't an email I will open (or a phonecall I will answer) if I don't recognize the sender/caller.
Gone fishing. Nope. Gone phishing.