Volume No. 18 Issue No. 2 February 2021  

Michelle Barrette
  By Michelle Barrette

     A couple of months ago, we received a call from a gentleman in Elbert who had been the victim of a phone scam. So we decided to look into it and discovered that people are susceptible to all kinds of fraud. Pete Gawda and Leslie Sheley investigated the different types of grifts — see their articles on pages 6 and 7 (or under Feature Stories if using the mobile edition).
   But a few days before her deadline, our editor became the victim of a scam. It’s Marylou’s story, so I think it’s best she relay it firsthand.
   My story is a bit weird because this happened to me a day after I edited the two scam stories — just a few days before my deadline. My computer had been “acting up” for a couple of weeks; although it was bothersome, I could live with it. I thought after deadline I would take the computer in and have it checked out. That didn’t work out.
   One afternoon, all of a sudden my computer locked up and started spewing loud noises. Warnings from Apple (I have a Mac) popped up all over the screen and I could do nothing. There was an “emergency” number to call so naively I called, believing I was calling Apple. The “technician” said Apple had contracted their company to fix issues for Apple products. Within a minute or two, I had given them my computer password and someone was scrambling things around inside my computer.
   A few minutes later, Nicole James (maybe it was her name; maybe not) told me my computer had been hacked and viruses were on the attack. She said they would fix the problem but I should look into protection plans. She presented me with four protection plans, ranging from $1,300 to $2,500 per year. I declined any of the options, and I didn’t have a clue that this might be deceitful. Nicole said they would be able to fix my computer for $149.99 — seemed reasonable to me. Of course, I had to give them my credit card number — and my computer password. I had lost almost an entire day so maybe I didn’t want to see the red flag. But after reading the “scam” articles and doing a bit of research online, I had second thoughts about my eagerness to trust this company. Long story short, I called Apple the next day and found out I had been scammed! The Apple representative told me they would first of all never go inside a computer unless the computer was right in front of them along with the customer. He advised me to change every single password I have and run a scan for any viruses Nicole and her partner might have inflicted on my computer.
   I also called Nicole and told her what Apple had revealed to me; however, she insisted they were legitimate and “not all the Apple people” were aware of all the outside Apple contractors.
   Because my computer is working now, I decided not to stop payment because I am too afraid these people could do something evil to my Mac if they don’t get paid. By the way, the scammers told me that I should always use Google Chrome and avoid Safari — the Apple person said, “Why would we tell you not to use our own browser?” Duh! So, there you have it. I was duped, and I had always crowed that I would be able to recognize a scammer. I had to eat those words. Bottom line: Anyone at any age can fall victim to a computer swindle.
   Back to Michelle.
   Well, to add to Marylou’s story, ransomware is ramping up and it’s really a frightening concept. Ransomware is not what I would call a scam; it's real in that the victim has to pay a ransom fee to gain access to their data. A Ransomware Cyber Attack is defined as a “type of malicious software (malware) that threatens to publish or blocks access to data or a computer system, usually by encrypting it, until the victim pays a ransom fee to the attacker. In many cases, the ransom demand comes with a deadline. If the victim doesn’t pay in time, the data is gone forever.” There are insurance policies out there now to protect people from having their information hijacked for money. We might consider an article on computer insurance.
   Besides scams, we have many interesting columns and articles this month. Be sure to read Mark’s Meanderings for a social media alert.
   Happy Valentine’s Day!
   See you in March,
   - Michelle
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