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I GOT SCAMMED BY BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH!!

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!):

fake-blue-screen-of-death-600x400

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

3524 SILVERSIDE ROAD SUITE 35B
WILMINGTON,
DE
19810

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.

 

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…

picasion.com_4iW4

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?

A Day at the Beach

2 Aug

I have had an on again, off again love-hate relationship with the beach my whole life.

During my earliest childhood years, I lived with my mother in California and we were constantly at the beach (totally free and very clean back in those days).  My mother made headline news when she (7-8 months pregnant with my sister) and another woman pulled a shark that got into the shallows on to dry sand.  His jaws are still hanging on a wall in the local Naval museum (don’t ask which base, they’re all a blur).

We camped on the beach and stole creatures out of tidal pools to dry on the roof and become home decor.  There were dune buggies and bonfires every night, and deep holes dug into the sand in the shape of hearts behind the dune furthest from the beach that were filled in each morning and dug afresh (and if you can’t guess how they were used, your childhood was severely lacking in social beach etiquette).

I loved the beach, but was wary of the tidal current, which we called the rip tide and which I imagined was a giant frog (rip-it!) that grabbed your legs and pulled you under water (bless that six-year-old imagination).

I spent two different years of my later childhood living in Florida with my father and step-mother.  We lived on a canal (where I was certain the Creature from the Black Lagoon lived and was creeping across the backyard to my window at night when the dolphins came into the canals to splash and play) and, like every other family, we had a speed boat.  I don’t remember going to the beach to just fry in the sun or frolic in the waves, but I do remember trying to learn to water ski on inland lakes, ocean fishing (puffer fish are really cool!) and clamming along the coast.

As a young adult, I once spent every weekend of an entire summer at Second Beach in Newport, Rhode Island.  At the end of the summer I had turned from lily-white to a nice shade of ivory.  I far more enjoyed the little beach on the Newport bay that had a beautiful lawn, a meager six-foot stretch of sand, and water filled with phytoplankton that we would stir up into a phosphorescent light show at night while skinny dipping.  Star-lit and moon-lit walks in the dark along the edge of the surf was my prime beach time.

I have now lived in Florida as a mature adult for 21 years.  During that time I have been to the beach twice, once in Ft. Lauderdale where I lounged on a sea-side chaise under a huge umbrella and was brought drinks and food by cute cabana boys (I braved the sun once to dip myself in the water and hastily retreated) and once on a fishing trip with my best girl friends, including one baby.  Understand this:  We did not fish with hooks.  We didn’t actually want to catch (and thereby handle) any fish.  We loved casting and reeling, and of course we had to drink beer!  And we moved our fishing activities to inland lakes and rivers after Kelly ate a substantial amount of (hopefully) helpful pro-biotic sand and I had diaper duty.

So yesterday I went to the beach with my best friend ever.  Alice and I have the same complaints about the beach, such as burning to a crisp after 5 minutes in the sun wearing the heaviest sunscreen available is not fun, having sand go places it shouldn’t outa (and having more of those places as we age!) is not gonna happen, and after going into the clear blue waters of the Caribbean, neither of us is willing to put one toe in the scummy, brownish water of our Central Florida waterfronts where you can’t see Jaws until it’s too late.

Here is our idea of the perfect day at the beach.

  • Turn on Garmin and have him take us to New Smyrna.
  • Follow a sandy track to the tiny parking lot of our favorite seaside dive bar (and no, I’m not saying where because everyone would start going there and we want it all to ourselves!).
  • Sit at the outside bar, which is tucked under enough roof that the sun can’t get to you until late afternoon.
  • Order refreshing alcoholic beverages.
  • People-watch with a horrified obsession.
  • Look at the ocean.
  • Look at the sand.
  • Enjoy the cool ocean breeze.
  • Order some lunch.
  • Order more refreshing alcoholic beverages.
  • Flirt with old men who chat us up and want to pinch our asses (Alice declines gracefully saying they should probably start with a pat on the fanny).
  • Crack jokes with the bartenders.
  • Crack jokes with each other.
  • Order more refreshing alcoholic beverages.
  • Relax and let the alcohol burn off.
  • Get a cup of ice water and tell Garmin to take us back home.
  • Take a nice long soak in my roman tub (alone, dirty minds!) with wonderful smelling bath products and a refreshing alcoholic beverage.
  • Have a nice bit of nap (don’t get your hopes up:  alone again).

Paradise perfected!

newsmyrna

I’m Home!

15 Jan

Safe, sound and happy!

fireworks

Things I Forgot About Utah

3 Nov

Quite often, I am reminded that I’m living in an entirely new environment, despite the fact that I have lived in Utah before.

I forgot that Utah has houseflies.  Serious houseflies.  They really want to come live in your house, and they go to extremes to wrangle their way inside.  Fortunately, at this time of year, the cold has nearly done them in and, if they do manage to get inside (they love to sit on the inside of the screen door, patiently waiting for you to open the interior door), they usually go belly-up pretty fast.  That’s okay as it goes, but finding a fly feet up on the countertop or stove top, reaching for a tissue to dispose of the casualty, only to have it frantically try to revive and escape, is definitely on my list of things I don’t like about Utah.

I don’t know if I live in some privileged Shrangi-La of central Florida, but during my 20 years there I never saw a house fly.  Roaches, ‘squitos and horse flies, wasps, love bugs and blue bottles, had those aplenty, but aside from the roaches (we euphemistically call them “palmetto bugs”), the other creepy fliers stay outside where they belong (and yes, palmetto bugs fly).

The other seriously gross thing I forgot about Utah is that it has a gazillion 2″ long grasshoppers.  At least in Florida the grasshoppers are a decent 5″ and you can see them from a mile off.  They apparently don’t like to hang out with other grasshoppers, so if you have to deal with one of the monsters giving you the evil eye (and they will turn and follow you if you try to sneak up behind them to swat them off your prized plant), at least you’re only dealing with one.

Here, there are hundreds under foot and every step sets them to whirring and flapping frantically, only to land one inch from where your next foot fall is about to descend.  These buggers are also well camouflaged and blend into the dry grass and pebbled driveways.  Florida grasshoppers are never found in the grass, and are a bright, malevolent green with black and yellow “warning signs” clearly posted.  With a Florida grasshopper, you stand a good chance of coming out the victor; not so in Utah.

Do I sound homesick?  You betcha!Image

Unusual Discovery

28 Apr

I have beaten my hand into shreds doing wire wrapping the past 2 weeks.  Each night, after I was finished torturing myself, I would lavish different hand creams on my poor hands and slip on a pair of gloves to try to calm down the damage.  Tonight I totally lucked upon a new way to heal my mangled flesh:

butcherblockconditioner

So, my hands are (apparently) akin to pieces of wood!  But, hey, it works.  My hands feel better than they have for the past 2 weeks, and my butcher block and wood-handled knives are gleaming with perfection.  Who’d have guessed?handssign

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