Connections: Internet Innocence

Sure, computers were being hacked, people were getting scammed, all the time — but not me

Until last weekend, I was in total denial about computer security. Sure, computers were being hacked, people were getting scammed, all the time — but not me. 

I have used Chase bank’s straightforward and convenient system for paying bills for a long time. On Saturday, planning to do just that, I was surprised when I went to Chase and, before I could put in my password, a pop-up window appeared telling me my account needed to be “authenticated.” I was surprised, but not surprised enough. I called the phone number given, and reached someone who identified himself as a certified Apple technician when I asked if he represented Chase. My computer is an Apple MacBook Air, so I took him at his word.

The “certified technician” said my computer didn’t have a firewall, which was necessary for security. He asked if I had ever used a security program and when I hemmed and hawed, he replied: “A ha! It was expired.” 

Satisfied that Chase had sent me in this technician’s direction, I engaged in a lengthy back and forth with him, ostensibly to correct the problem. He asked me to click on this and that, but, before long, when some of his directions didn’t seem to help me access my Chase account, he asked permission to access my computer remotely to complete the necessary fix. Someone a little more sophisticated or suspicious than I might immediately have recognized that as a red flag. But not me.

Providing him with access to my computer wasn’t easy, either. Again, he told me to do this and that and, fi nally, using some sort of remote desktop software, he was able to move around my cursor. (I know. At this point in the story you are slapping your forehead at my naivete, right?)

I was assigned a “Case I.D.” number of 1100478. The diagnosis was: “Security Breach and S.S.L. Certificate Missing.” S.S.L. certificates provide secure, encrypted communications between a website and an internet browser, but I had never heard of them before.

Blythely convinced I was in good hands, I went along with this whole process, taking note dutifully of another pop-up note that appeared on my desktop:

 

Error and Warning

IP address

Clean Network Connection

Malware 

Spyware

Optimize Computer 

50 to 70 Mins 

 

That was when I learned there would be fees. And they wouldn’t be small. Security and support for one year, the tech said, would be $299.99; three years, $499.99, and lifetime security and support, $699.99.

Aghast, I asked to whom the fees would be paid. The answer was “livepcexpert247.com — 888-331-8954. Tech name: Joe. Extension: 438.”

Finally alerted to what had been going on, I asked the man on the phone to wait a minute and sneakily asked my husband, who was half listening to all this in the same room, to dial up Geekhampton, the Mac store in Sag Harbor. Whoever answered the phone immediately recognized livepcexpert. com as a scam.

That should have been the end of it, but I had given whoever this was access to my desktop, where most of my passwords were stored. Fearing the scammers might use them to buy things or run up charges on Chase, Chris and I hopped into the car and drove to Sag Harbor for professional help. 

Before the whole thing was over, I had wasted the better part of a day. However, as far as I know, no financial harm was inflicted, although the egg on my face didn’t feel good. The moral of this story? I’m not sure there is one, but if some random website or pop-up ever requires you to phone a friendly technician, maybe you should go talk to the real, live computer folks in a brick and mortar store.