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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

A Tale of Computer Woe

By Mort Reichek of Octogenarian

I've been cut off from the blogosphere ever since my computer crashed more than a week ago. The problem began when a pop-up message box appeared on my screen warning me that the computer was heavily infected by worms and viruses.

The warning came not from my McAfee anti-virus program but from a source identified as "System Security," which provided specific names for each one of the attackers. This lent a sense of authenticity to the warning. To destroy the worms and viruses, I was instructed to double-click a tab on the screen.

I obeyed the instruction. This brought up a message informing me that the attackers would be destroyed only if I paid what I thought was $29.95 for the service and that a new, presumably stronger anti-virus program would be installed. I was so frightened by the virus warning that I foolishly provided my credit card information.

Instead of destroying the malware, my computer screen quickly displayed a barely readable message, allegedly from Windows, that my computer was now infected with genuine worms and viruses. The message could not be removed from the screen. Nor would the computer respond to any action on my part. The computer had crashed. My McAfee anti-virus protection program had been overwhelmed by a criminal intruder because of my foolish behavior.

The "System Security" web page provided an 800-phone number to call for help. When I phoned, I heard several minutes of music and then a heavily-accented message that was unintelligible. I was obviously a sucker who had been taken in by one of those hoaxes that plague the Internet.

I had never before had a computer crash on me. When my computer-savvy grandson, who had solved my computer problems in the past, was unable to cope with this one, I hired a local computer repair service to come to my home.

After carefully examining my computer, the professional expert told me that there was only one way to revive the machine. My hard drive would have to be wiped out and my operating system and all my operating programs would have to be reinstalled. Of course, that would mean the destruction of all my individual computer files.

I had never backed up my files, which is what intelligent computer-users are supposed to do. My policy has been to make hard paper copies of any really important computer files. Wiping out the hard drive would therefore not be too painful for me. I would lose only old email records, a handful of photos and music files, and my bookmarks. Sadly, I told the expert to go ahead.

So now I'm back in the blogosphere, cursing myself for stupidly reacting to the phony virus-warning pop-up.

But now the story becomes bizarre. I have just received my monthly credit card statement showing that the only charge posted on the very day that my computer crashed was one for $129.95, plus a $3.89 "foreign transaction fee."

The charge was not from a business known as "System Security," but from one identified on the statement as "MP3Stones." It is located in Baku, Azerbaijan. That's a former Soviet republic on the Caspian Sea. Their tentacles had snared me half-way around the world in New Jersey.

I immediately phoned my credit card company's customer service office. After listening to my tale of woe, I was instructed to deduct the fraudulent charges from my payment. In checking their merchant files, the credit card representative told me that MP3Stones listed the nature of its business as selling "music."

What they "sold" me was frustration, aggravation and a valuable lesson summed up in the Latin expression: "caveat emptor" - buyer beware!

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

This is an important story. It is so easy to make something look real and scammers get more creative all the time. Thank you for sharing it with us. Hopefully it will help someone avoid a similar problem.

Ouch.
Painful lesson.
Thanks for passing it on.

Thanks! It's so easy to click, isn't it? I clicked on something I thought was a news story about working from home. Ever since, spam has been getting past my hitherto impregnable gmail spam filters.

Mort - I can relate to this! I had a similar (the same?) virus. I didn't give my credit card number, but every 15 seconds or so, no matter what I was doing, a huge 'warning, your computer is in danger, click here' window popped up and covered the screen. My 'computer geek' son told me to download an anti Malware program from a non-profit organization, malwarebytes.org. I did. I ran it. It found the infections. And it destroyed them. - Sandy

Mort - very interesting and sorry for your problem. I have carbonite back up my computer for a $ 50.00 a year charge and hope this kind of problem never happens. The computer has become so necessary in my life, this is a sort of insurance, I guess. I have never Thank God needed to access it but...

I no longer think as fast as I used to and am, therefore, vulnerable.

I need to keep my antenna out for danger or I would probably click on 'open' when I should click on 'delete'.

It's very hard for me to believe that this software is not real. Just a couple of days ago I purchased that software, but had also some troubles using it, so I talked to the tech support representative and with his help the issue was resolved. Try to contact customer support technicians who obviously know what to do in those cases. Good Luck

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