I was astonished that it had been a scam.Man,s sounded so convincing”
- December 16, 2019
- William Lewis
when you say me to show my self I’d say professional (I run my own business from home), intelligent and tech-savvy. – and even do the online shop for my grandmother to make sure she doesn’t become a victim. But even all that didn’t stop me being defrauded out of money in a scarily convincing phone scam.
I’d just moved house and, after taking a week off work for the move, was planning on being back at my desk later that day. Then the phone rang – a landline we’d only just had installed and hadn’t even had the chance to use, let alone give the number out. It was a man who said he was calling from my phone company and, from the faint sounds in the background, it sounded like he was in a call centre.
HE KNEW WE’D JUST MOVED IN
He said he knew we’d just moved in and told me that he had news about my computer – it was infected with a virus. This instantly put me on the back foot. I relied on my computer for work and was already paranoid about cyber security, especially after the recent WannaCry cyber attack.
HE ASKED ME FOR TWO LETTERS FROM MY PASSWORD, WHICH SEEMED LEGITIMATE
The man, who had a faint Scottish accent, asked me for two letters from my internet password, which made him seem legitimate. He then said that our antivirus wasn’t working and he could tell from the slow connection speed that there was malware on my computer. He didn’t access my computer, but he was so convincing I had no reason to doubt him.
He told me the name of the virus, which I’d never heard of, and he said every time I plugged in a different device I’d spread it. All I could think was: “I SO don’t need this right now.” Rather than try to sell me anything, he said I needed to take my computer to a shop and get them to remove the malware – something that, in his words, could take two to three days.
My stomach just dropped – the man had sounded so convincing, I was astonished that it had been a scam
We live in the middle of nowhere, miles from a computer shop, so I started panicking, thinking it would be even more days off work, which I just couldn’t afford. I remember asking if there was anything else I could do and, at that point, he said, “Well, we could upgrade you to a premium service that includes antivirus software.”
THERE WAS NOTHING THAT RANG ALARM BELLS
The cost was £79.99 and it would last two years – the length of my phone contract. There was nothing that rang alarm bells. He wasn’t forceful, he didn’t press me, he had already given me the option to sort it out myself and the price was manageable. I gave him my credit-card details and then he stayed on the line for another five minutes talking me through what would happen next: I would get an email within two hours and would need to click on a link and then activate the software. This would then run a test on my computer to check for malware. He was so convincing and, at the end of the call, he told me to call customer service if I had any problems.
Yet, two hours later and no email, I was getting impatient, thinking he’d written my email address down wrong. I’d already called my clients to say I was going to be delayed, but just couldn’t wait any longer. I called my phone company, but as the automated message ran through the options of who to talk to, none seemed to apply to me and the software I’d just bought.
When I eventually got through, the person on the end of the phone had no idea what I was talking about and said it wasn’t a product they sold – and that my phone company gives free antivirus software to all its customers. My stomach just dropped – the man had sounded so convincing, I was astonished that it had been a scam. I get phone calls all the time from people who say you’ve won the lottery, or that they’re calling from my broadband provider, but when you ask who that is, they don’t know.
I’VE STILL NO IDEA HOW THE FRAUDSTERS GOT MY PHONE NUMBER
I phoned my credit-card company, who put a stop on my card and monitored it. The £79.99 had been taken, but luckily nothing else. The cyber-crime team were really helpful and said they’d heard about the scam before. My credit-card company refunded me the money. I’ve still got no idea how the fraudsters got my number or knew that I’d just moved in. I’ve not told anyone, as I’m still embarrassed that I fell for it.
As anyone who has just moved knows, it’s a very stressful time. If I’d have answered that phone call at any other time in my life, I would have said, “Can I call you back?” and done my research a bit more. If I had, I’d have seen that, on my phone company’s website, they even have a security warning about scammers calling to say your computer is infected. For a few minutes of my time, I could have avoided all this hassle… and embarrassment.
THE TAKE FIVE EXPERT SAYS…
Vishing is when a fraudster calls, claiming they’re from your bank or another trusted organisation. They even use software to fake the telephone number that flashes up on your screen. Never give out personal or financial details and always put the phone down and call back on a verified phone number. Also, make sure you install the built-in security measures many computer browsers offer. These can help protect you from fake pop-ups in your online banking window, and “scam alert” messages that hide malware.