5 Oct

The “push come to shove” on this scam happened two days ago, but it really started one week earlier.

On the 25th of September, I received a friend request on Facebook from a woman I know.  Because I hadn’t heard from her is so long, I did not realize she was ALREADY in my friend list.  So, thinking nothing of it, I accepted the request.   About an hour later, the woman whose Facebook account had been hacked messaged that it was indeed a scam and not to approve the request; alas, too late for me.  Facebook had removed the account, but a PUP had been downloaded to my computer.

What is a PUP?  The definition:

A PUP (potentially unwanted program) is a program that may be unwanted, despite the possibility that users consented to download it.  PUPs include spyware, adware, and dialers, and are often downloaded in conjunction with a program that the user wants.

What this PUP did was cause a survey to pop up when I accessed my Etsy account on-line the next time I used my computer after the Facebook scam, but I never identified one with the other; why would I?  The survey clearly stated it was being run by and for Etsy.  I don’t sell on Etsy anymore, but I occasionally need something I can only find there.  However, I haven’t been there for maybe a year, so it was plausible in my mind that Etsy would do this.  After I filled out the survey, I was offered a free gift for the cost of shipping only.  I said to myself, sure!  Fuck.  Now the scammers have my credit card number…or maybe not.  I might have used PayPal.  Can’t remember.

On the 2nd of October my laptop suddenly displayed the Blue Screen of Death, a term which is so prevalent in use that it has its own acronym, BSOD.  I have never had or seen a BSOD.  It was a blue screen, so it must be a BSOD.  The one I got looked like this and it looked real to me (people who really know say it’s the wrong color blue and the wrong font…this is way beyond my pay grade!):


There is a phone number provided for technical support assistance, which directly follows a Microsoft website URL. Who do you think that phone number will get you?  Microsoft?

I rebooted and the BSOD appeared again…and again…and again…and again.  I could not access the internet, I could not enter Safe Mode, I could not do anything.  I tried various ways to get at least a little information before I became tired and frustrated.  That phone number was looking pretty good.  So I called.

In hind sight, I realize that the person who answered the phone did not offer the name of the company, he just said his name…garbled very badly by his heavily East Indian accent.  But aren’t we all used to dealing with indecipherable language barriers of customer service centers since they starting outsourcing to the Far East?  I thought nothing of it and tried to understand what he was saying.  This took all my concentration, and that aggravation made me agree to things I wouldn’t do in a calm, rational state of mind, because of course the first thing I understand is that he needs remote access to see what is wrong.

I have worked with Microsoft in the past, as well as Dell, and they have both used software to take remote control of my computer to fix stuff.  So I know this is a real, if not normal, technique and, yes, he gets remote access to my computer.  After researching this type of scam, I realize now how easy it is for scammers to run scripts on your remotely controlled computer that display things that aren’t real, like my computer is infected with the Koobface worm.  And about six foreign IPs are accessing my computer RIGHT NOW!  Aggravation turns into FREAKING OUT.

Now, the guy at the number I called says his company can’t fix the problem because it’s in my NETWORK, not my internet network, but my computer network, about which I know nothing.  He tells me I need a special virus removal company to do it and he can get someone on the line right away.  Which he does.

The new guy calls me and assures me he’s going to fix everything…all my data is safe…for $399.99…and that it would cost about $500 to have a local company do it.  In the meantime, the first guy has not relinquished remote control and the second guy just steps in and screens start flying.  The second guy calls me on the phone again and tells me everything is fixed, then hands me over to his manager to arrange payment.

Now I’m calmed down and the weirdness of this whole situation is starting to dawn on me.  The manager, who still has remote control of my computer, writes these elaborate instructions for payment and saves it as a .txt file:

Geek Base LLC


TOLL FREE NUMBER : 1-800-929-7218

Billing No:- 302-319-4872

Email : support@geekbase.us

Amount : $399.99
1. Write the check under the name of GEEKBASE LLC
2. Put the check in a regular envelop
3. Paste the printed label on the envelop and write the fedex account number i.e. 216019890 on the envelop
4. Hand over the envelop to the fedex guy.

He even uses my computer to go to FedEx and schedule the pickup.

When I finally have control of my computer again, I am more than a little suspicious.  I immediately start researching “Geek Base” and see they have a BBB rating of “F” and are cited in many on-line scams.  I research BSOD scams and I start feeling very sick.  The scammers now have all my personal and financial data, have probably left another PUP to pop up another BSOD so I come back to them again under the “warranty,” and I am so fucked.

I had immediately re-started my anti-virus program (despite their assurances that I wouldn’t need it because I was now being routed through their SECURE NETWORK) and see that it quarantined FOUR items right before the fake BSOD; two PUPs and two Trojan Downloaders.  I immediately start in-depth scans using my anti-virus provider (ESET), Malwarebytes and SUPERantispy software.  A total of 1,671 “threats” were found…and eliminated.  I then ran IObit Uninstaller and uninstalled anything I didn’t recognize.  I set my personal network firewall in ESET to “interactive” so that I have to approve and set up a rule for EVERY outgoing and incoming communication.  Then I went from site to site revising ALL my passwords and added a master password.

Then I called the billing number and informed the man who answered that I wasn’t going to pay them anything for the scam.  He was really nonchalant, saying that was fine, he had 4,000,000 customers who knew he was legit, and he would cancel the pickup. He tried to guilt me by saying a scammer would have gotten the money up front, would I have paid Microsoft that much to fix the problem, etc.  Asshole.

I didn’t get to bed until 2 a.m., where I spent the night worrying about this major SNAFU.

Today I looked at my credit card statement and saw the charge for the “free” gift.  I called my USAA’s credit card fraud department and told the story in agonizing detail.  She assured me that this happens to smarter people.  She reverted the charge from the fake survey (although I did, in fact, actually receive the “gift”) because that part of the scam is to charge the card each month for a “subscription” they will say I agreed to, and the card was cancelled.

So now I know:

  • Etsy does not use on-line surveys, all their surveys are emailed.
  • Nothing is ever free on-line.
  • Real blue screens of death do not contain telephone numbers.
  • Scammers KNOW that we KNOW that scammers always get their money up front, so now they get their money afterward, and when they don’t get it, they’re not concerned because they know enough people will send in those fucking checks in good faith.
  • Scammers use FedEx to get your check because mailing it in the USPS is mail fraud.
  • They used every terror tactic in the book on me (read this blog for more).

Make sure this DOES NOT HAPPEN to you!

I need a drink.  Maybe two.  Hell, make that three!  Because I know this is not over yet.  I will be watching and worrying for months to come.


HAE Documentary Coming Soon

10 May

This a great opportunity for friends of people, like myself, who struggle with Hereditary Angio Edema (HAE) to learn more about the horrors and triumphs of living with this rare blood enzyme deficiency.

Dream Faire Top Ten

21 Mar

The top 10 most “envied” rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets at The Dream Faire are now on sale for 25% off.  Making the list are (click on the photo to see the detailed listing):

1.  "Cosmic Ice" on sale for $30

1. “Cosmic Ice” on sale for $30

2.  "Blue Seed Pod" sold!

2. “Blue Seed Pod” sold!

3.  "The North Wind" on sale for $55

3. “The North Wind” on sale for $55

4.  "Power of Three" on sale for $45

4. “Power of Three” on sale for $45

5.  "Bewitching Blue" on sale for $55

5. “Bewitching Blue” on sale for $55

6.  "Dragon's Egg" on sale for $26.25

6. “Dragon’s Egg” on sale for $26.25

7.  "Box of Hearts" on sale for $146.25

7. “Box of Hearts” on sale for $146.25

8.  "Ice Dragon" on sale for $71.25

8. “Ice Dragon” on sale for $71.25

9.  "Graceful Wave" on sale for $71.25

9. “Graceful Wave” on sale for $71.25

10. "Lucky Peacock Eye" on sale for $15

10. “Lucky Peacock Eye” on sale for $15


From My Closet to Yours

13 Feb

One of the more disagreeable aspects of being medically retired is the forced retirement of my clothing hoard…and hoard it is!  Even sadder, this hoard is made up of items I never had an opportunity to wear and now I either don’t have anywhere to wear them or they don’t fit (and this point I don’t think I will ever be those sizes again!).

My step-mother watches morning TV and phoned to tell me about a new(ish) selling venue for clothing called Tradesy.  I checked it out and moved all the items I was trying to sell to the new venue.  If you’re not a itty-bitty tiny thing (these are sizes Large and 1X), and you love to be sparkly and have a fun sense of style, you might want to take a peek in my Tradesy closet at https://www.tradesy.com/member/kat-c/2206425/.

Here are some of the goodies for sale…


Cooking Kat Style

11 Feb

I haven’t cooked for myself (and posted the results here on the blog) for some time.

I admit, I am not a good cook, or even a mediocre one.  I can pretty much mess up any recipe, and there are only a handful of things I cook without a recipe.  One of them is not pork chops.

But I love pork chops!  So tonight I grilled some porkloin chops on my Cuisinart indoor grill (only masochists grill outdoors in Florida; the local population of blood sucking mosquitos can go feed themselve somewhere else!).


I steamed some tender asparagus and whipped up a lo-cal margarita.


You can find the recipe for these Chesapeake Bay Pork Chops here.

As you can see, I only made four chops and the recipe is for eight, but how can too much marinade be a problem?  I doubled the garlic (‘cuz I love garlic), guestimated the liquids, and use bottled lime juice and dry basil.  If I ever decide to have an herb garden, then I will use fresh; until then, dry it is.  The chops marinated in the frig overnight because, although I took the chops out of the freeze the day before, I didn’t give them another thought until around 4 p.m., and didn’t want to eat between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. so they could marinate 4-6 hours.  Again, how can too much marinade be a bad thing?  When I make them again, I’m going to following the recommendation to add some of the Old Bay spice while the chops are grilling.  I’m sure I’ll love the extra kick!Snoopy

Slim Down for the New Year

30 Dec

I wish I could say this meant I have lost weight, but no.  Beastly, life-saving drugs and inactivity resulting from a myriad of health concerns have actually increased the poundage.  More to love, right?

As anyone who actually follows my blog knows, postings have been rare, few and far between.  Since I no longer have apprentices, I have deleted all the posts relating to pagan culture, as well as the more frivilous posts, and will be concentrating on the art of creating art (and maybe getting out of all my recently created revolving debt thereby).  That means more posts of my mundane life and less of my spiritual life.  And look for a major shift from copper to silver in my boutique!

In terms of blog poundage, I’ve trimmed a total of 581 posts and I’m feeling lightweight and ready to take on whatever the New Year brings!FemBox

Every Twenty Years

11 Dec

There are so many things I have no interest in doing it’s a major miracle when they get done, which seems to be around every 20 years or so.

Like getting someone in to completely clean all the dryer lint from inside the dryer, inside the silvery accordion hose behind it, and (most problematic) from the pipe that runs up between the walls to exit on the roof 30 feet above.  I can (and do) clean the interior of the dryer from the front, but I lost my super hero powers that once allowed me to drag the machines from against the wall, leap over them in a single bound with vacuüm cleaner and screwdriver firmly in hand (actually, that would be one in each hand), open and clean the back interior of the dryer and the silvery flexible accordion hose, after which I would reassemble everything and leap back over the machines (one hand being free after tossing over the screwdriver where it immediately rolled under the washer) and shove them into place.  Being extraordinarily sweaty, a long shower and longer nap followed.

I faithfully performed this dangerous and daunting task until I bought a front loading washer and dryer set, which sit atop storage drawers that raise the machines to nosebleedingly new heights.  Not even my supernatural leaping prowess could get me over those suckers!  So for twenty years I dutifully cleaned the lint screen and vacuumed the front of the dryer, and was content (and exhausted).

Suddenly, last week, I became uncomfortably anxious over the possibility that my dryer vent pipe was going to self-combust and burn down the house, a fear that proved to be quite justified.  It took the company I hired two tries (first from ground level to roof and then from roof to ground level, rinse and repeat) to clean the airway.  That was some serious lint build up!

When I was scheduling the dryer vent system shakedown, I realized it was also time to bite the A/C and furnace vent bullets, another task gone undone over the past 20 years.  Now I have freshly scrubbed air vents and no black dust clinging to the popcorn ceiling around each of my 9 vents, and the two intake vents are sparkling clean, too.  Wanting to protect my investment (and hoping for another 20 years of vent-free worry, I purchased the most expensive filter devised to do everything every lesser priced filter promised to do plus remove black candle soot.  I shall never see black dust on my ceiling ever again, free to burn all the crackling wooden wick candles my house can hold (and I can afford).

Last month I replaced my 20-year-old leaking frig, broken dishwasher, dying microwave and perfectly fine stove.  Over the past twenty years I used the stove so infrequently that, despite the burnt offerings inside the oven, the stove has another twenty years of life left.  So why replace it?  I wanted it to match the other appliances, of course.  Chances are, given the built-in obsolescence of all appliances made today, I can probably expect to get 6-10 years out of my new kitchen suite.  Ain’t that sweet?

I also accomplished another task never performed in my home, which was to wash the DVR remote control.  I accidentally fulfilled this task when I changed the bed-clothes in the master bedroom last week.  After putting the dirty linens in the washer and placing clean linens back on the bed, I could not find the remote.  It wasn’t until I’d looked under the bed (disturbing a thriving 20-year-old dust bunny colony) and on every undusted level surface in the master bedroom that the horrifying thought that it had to be in the washer seized and squeezed every muscle and nerve in my body.  The washer, having just completed the rinse cycle, yield mounds of sopping wet sheets and a comforter, completed with matching shams, and a sparkling clean remote nestled right in the middle.

I took out the drenched batteries and grabbed my hair dryer, hoping for the best.  My hopes, however, were quickly dashed and I now contemplated the humiliating but necessary service call that was my next task.  Apparently I am not the only person to have performed this every-20-year ritual and arrangements were made for a replacement within the next two days.  The tech did say that it might spontaneously start working again.  In contradiction of my doubts, it returned to perfect working order the next day.  I’m so thankful I won’t have to wash the remote for another 20 years.

My life is filled with other 20 year milestones that include waxing my car, cleaning the windows (inside and out), replacing the roof, dusting the plant shelves and all the fake plants, jars, stuffed animals and other bric-à-brac that were placed there when I purchased this, my first home, 20 years ago.

Who knew being a home owner would result in so much effort every 20 years?

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