Today’s ten minutes might be considered in the form of an extended PSA. While I doubt if any of my dear readers would fall for the many scams that are making the rounds, someone must, so here is a little advice for anyone who you might know who is at risk of being robbed.
Robbed. Calling it a scam makes it sound like a prank but these pranksters are no different than folks who break into your house, terrorize your family and then declare you have nothing worth stealing. Not that that ever happened to me.
The latest thing is for people to get a call from the CRA (the Canadian IRS for American friends) telling them that they owe a thousand dollars or more and if they don’t pay up right away the police will come to your house and arrest you. They advise that you wire them money or use pre-paid Visa cards. First of all, if the CRA wants your money, they can just take it. You can then try to get it back. That’s how the tax man works, my friend. Besides, have you ever actually tried to get someone from the CRA on the phone? I do it for a living and half the time all I get is a message that their inbox is full. Sure you can call the 1-800 number but none of those people actually have a clue about anything but the simplest things – like how to apply for a tax credit for sending your goldfish to school.
So, if they are calling you (and not sending a letter – which is both threatening and perfectly impersonal) it is likely a scam. If they suggest pre-paid Visas for anything, it is definitely a scam. The best defence – because a lot of these guys are from conservative countries – is to tell them to send the cops over because “I just loooove a man in uniform.” It will throw them for a loop every time.
Then there is the computer scam where they call and tell you they are Bob from Microsoft and they’ve detected something wrong with your computer. Apparently Microsoft can do this even if your machine is turned off or not connected to the internet (well, some people aren’t hooked up 24 hours a day I’m sure). Do you think if Microsoft could do that they wouldn’t be using that technology to track down hackers and make their computers blow up? Cause I understand they can do that too.
If you don’t contact a help service desk from a Internet provider you trust (okay so that is an oxymoron but you know what I mean), then you don’t want to turn your computer over to a friendly fellow from Mumbai that calls to offer you assistance.
Here’s the funny thing about this scam. What they want to do is kidnap you. Well, not the real you but the digital you. Essentially they will lock down your computer and hold it hostage until you pay them money to release it. Technically this is extortion but they tell you – you invited us in so… — but it still is extortion. Most people though are too worried about being embarrassed either by admitting they were dumb or by the threats that their intimate photos will be splashed over the Interwebs. When you are 60 this is not something you want to have happen.
There are, of course, lots of other scams but I’ve written about those elsewhere. Be safe out there. There are people who want to take your money. And they don’t all work for Amazon.
But that’s ten minutes.