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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.

 

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?

Bubble Gum Thoughts

20 Mar

Odd questions occur to me while I’m brushing my teeth; here’s yesterday’s connundrum:

Trident gum commercials claim that it is recommended by 4 out of 5 dentist for their patients who already chew gum.  The ad doesn’t claim that 4 out of 5 dentists recommend that all their patients should chew gum.

Does this mean that chewing gum is not recommended by dentists?  Is it a case of Trident claiming to be the lesser evil for people who already have a habit that dentist’s discourage?

I hated and despised my marketing course in college, and I still hate and despise the wiggle wording used by the advertising agency.  I think advertisement jockeys are unethical, well-paid liars.

Obviously I find brushing my teeth to be totally boring!

Lying Pinocchio

 

A Test of Age

19 Apr

You know you are getting old when you have to use a pair of pliers to get the cap off of a miniature bottle of wine!

Wine

And if you ask me how I know, you’re not only not old enough to drink, you’re not old enough to think.  Now that I think about it, you (and I) may be too old to thinkWineSign!  Dang!

Island of Unloved Creations

16 Dec

Like the Island of Misfit Toys, I have an island of unloved treasures in my boutique.  Should they be trashed or is there hope?


Crochet Earrings with Pink a…

$30.00

Crochet Ribbon Yarn Autumn P…

$25.00

Wire Crochet Cuff Bracelet w…

$40.00

Wool & Silk Crochet Big Loop…

$25.00

Crochet Faerie Finger Purse:…

$50.00

Soft Fun Furry Crocheted Nov…

$25.00

Cotton Crochet Button Bead B…

$10.00

Crocheted Loopy Boot Cuffs T…

$30.00

Crochet Lariat Scarflette: &…

$30.00

Soft Novelty Fun Fur Crochet…

$10.00

Crocheted Green Baby Acorn E…

$15.00

Fantasy Crochet Drawstring T…

$45.00

Tooth Fairy Crochet Tiny Coi…

$10.00

Red Garnet and Fine Silver P…

$75.00

Multicolor “Neon Mist&q…

$25.00

Pastel Blue Crochet Dangle F…

$20.00

Treasury tool supported by the dog house

misfitsign

Whack Job

18 Aug

Cut off all my hair!

But, hey, no gray!  Also no makeup.  What was I thinking?

Wish Me a Bon Voyage

27 Apr

Because I’m sailing away on the tides of a house filled with water!

Just when I finished the faux granite counter tops and had treated myself to a single glass of wine in celebration, I got up to prepare another jug of ice water as I was getting ready to retire for the night, only to discover water in the pantry hallway just outside the master bedroom door.

Of course, my first thought was that the washing machine hose had broken because that is the next room, but no, the water was coming from under the guest bathroom sink, and it was about 3/8″ deep.  In between feeding myself and the dogs around 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. when I was about to retire, the coupling broke loose from the cold water line and quickly flooded the guest bathroom, both guest bedrooms, the hallway connecting the three, the living room, the dining room, and the laundry room, and was making headway into the pantry closet.  Water had already crested the front door jamb, as well as the garage door jamb, and was wending its way to the street.  Fortunately, the water didn’t make it as far as either the breakfast nook (or art center), the kitchen, the master bedroom or its attached bath and closet.

My second thought, after shutting the water off, was to get the deluge out of the house and, using every available towel and a mop, I struggled for over an hour to unsink my tile floors, to little avail.  Then, thanks to Annette, I had more success with my old, decrepit and shedding push broom, but I had long before exceeded my body’s limit.  Then, again thanks to Annette, I had the phone number of a company whose sole business is to clean up messes like this, and I soon had assistance…until well after midnight.

They moved everything I hadn’t gotten yet off of the floors and even removed the carpeting in the two guest bedrooms.

Now I am surrounded by high-powered blowers and dehumidifiers that sound like jets taking off, and that are sucking up the electricity as fast as Florida Power makes it.  They’re also giving off intense amounts of heat and my air conditioning is completely defeated, with the temperature 10 degrees above what I usually find minimally comfortable, 78°F.  In other words, I am swimming in sweat!

I spent most of today with the insurance company’s adjuster and tomorrow the clean up crew will be back to start pulling warped molding and assessing the wetness in the walls, which the adjuster found to be very high using an electronic gadget.  I’m going to lose my guest bathroom vanity, but I hope that the carpenter can save the counter top I just finished with faux granite.

While I’m taking advantage of having everything in the closets now in the unflooded parts of my home and I’m going through everything ruthlessly, I have to say this is definitely not the best way to get my tile floors cleaned up!

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