First, a PSA
Last Friday I was handed a message to call someone named J—– W—–. Neither the name nor the phone number was familiar to me. My HOBL said it was a business call, but he could not remember the company’s name. I usually would toss such a message into the trash, but on that day, I was expecting information from a book distributor, so I called.
When the phone was answered, there was chaos on the other end – several voices talking, things being dropped. It sounded like a small group of young people sitting at a long table, eating lunch and shouting to each other. At least ten seconds passed before someone actually spoke to me, and , even then, I could not make out the words because of the noise in the background.
Then all went quiet, as though the group had been shushed or the speaker function had been disabled. On the line was a young man whose accent was one that we all recognize from call centers, but one I’d rather associate with champion spellers or good doctors rather than what I later concluded was a scam artist. I asked to speak J—– W——- and gave his the extension. The man asked me to hold, but he did not put the phone on hold or mute. There were none of the clicks associated with a call being transferred. Then the same young man said, “This is J—–W—–.”
Right off, he asked my name, and I told him. Then he wanted to know if I was at my computer.
“Excuse me, “ I said, “what company is this?” He gave me a high-tech sounding name, which I will not divulge here because there might be a legit company out in the world that shares the same one. Besides, I imagine this guy changes company names, his own name and phone numbers on a near daily basis.
Again, he asked if I was at my computer and told me to turn it on immediately. I did not do a thing. He told me my computer had a virus. When I asked how he knew that, he said information on his monitor told him, and he was going to help me fix the bug. Funny, nobody has ever called and offered such help before. Even before virus programs were developed, I would go into my registry and do the tedious work of cleaning it up.
“Whom do you work for?” I asked. (And, yes, I dangle my prepositions on a regular basis when I talk.) He named his company. “No,” I said, “Who pays your company to do this?” He would not say. Instead, he insisted that I start up my computer. “We detected the virus last week. We need to fix this.”
Throughout this conversation, I was sitting at my Mac, which is almost virus-proof. I had seen no evidence of any problems. “Which computer are you talking about?”
“It’s a Microsoft problem.”
“And you detected it last week?”
“Yes,” he said.
And that’s when I knew for sure I was being scammed, because my other computer, a PC laptop that seldom goes online, had been unplugged for more than two weeks.
“I can’t do this now, “ I said. “I’m waiting for a call. I’ll be back in touch next week.”
The guy on the other end did not thank me for my time or offer any pleasantry. Instead, he cut me off.
I went to the PC, plugged it in and powered it up. After checking my virus program for updates, of which there were none, I ran a full scan. All was fine.
Early in my marriage, my HOBL and I spent two years dealing with Identity Theft. This was just after President Clinton signed a bill making it a crime but before the law was enacted. The local police had no idea how to track such things. As a former reporter, however, I knew some handy investigative techniques and how to apply them online. Because of cross-referenced information gathered from banks and businesses that had been targeted, I was able to get the Secret Service involved.
So, Friday, even though J——– W——— gained nothing from me, or at least I have seen no evidence that he did, I filed an online complaint with the federal government, outlining our conversation, providing the telephone numbers and call times involved. Who knows if that’s enough for those investigators to do anything, but I do hope this post might help someone.
If you receive such a call, please take a name and number and the reason for the call from the “tech,” and then call your computer company, concierge service, and maker of your virus protection software to see if the call is legit. And if it isn’t, report it. The federal government has an online internet complaint page.
Now, Something Lighter
As a supportive gesture, a dear friend who is overworked and has no time to read, bought my novel, Cooley & Rose, in e-book form and sent it to his father.
“Why did you do that?” said his wife, who’d already read the novel in an early form and is the person who told me this story. She asked because her father-in-law is an 83-year-old retired CIA employee who reads thrillers, — not quirky, road stories about two flawed characters whose marriage is on the rocks. Although I was grateful and touched by the support from her husband, I was a bit sad that the book would probably go unread,
Almost three weeks passed. The wife called me to say her father-in-law not only read Cooley & Rose but loved it so much that he had been talking about it for two weeks.
Everyday I’m hearing from more and more men who are taking time to sit down with Cooley & Rose.
I’ve also heard from several women who confessed that reading the novel has made them kinder to their spouses.
Feel free to comment on this site about your experience with the story, or go to the online store from where you bought your book to comment and review.
By the way, the novel is available in a trade paperback from Amazon.com and as an e-book from online reader stores. You can read the first chapter for free.