By: By Tom Joyce
August 9, 2013
It can be a computer owner’s worst nightmare — having one’s system hacked and controlled from a remote location while being powerless to retaliate.
But Mildred Moore had just such an experience recently, one that ultimately could cost her $130, and almost led to a $400 charge.
Moore, 70, a resident of the Flat Rock community who has been a computer user about 10 to 12 years, said Thursday her problems began around the end of July.
That’s when she received a call from a person who identified himself as an employee of a service that repairs computers from a remote location.
“It was a foreign-talking man,” Moore recalled. “He told me they were getting a lot of errors on my computer.”
The caller naturally offered a solution.
“He said he could fix my computer on the computer,” said the Flat Rock resident, who told the man she wasn’t interested in having someone tinkering with her system.
“I told him they didn’t need to mess with my computer — that if I needed to, I’d get someone to fix it,” Moore said.
But soon after, she realized the situation was out of her hands. “I saw all kinds of things moving” on the screen.
A call-back number had been provided to Moore. “And I called back and told them to get off, and not mess it up,” the woman said of the activity on her computer, mentioning that she spoke to different people along the way.
Essentially, Moore was advised that she would be charged for the unauthorized repairs. “They was wanting close to $400 to start with,” she said. Moore finally was told that the service had performed one “fix” and a computer scan that would cost her $130.
“I was very agitated,” she said.
Debit Account Invaded
But the woman’s nightmare didn’t end there.
“Somehow they got into my PayPal account,” Moore said of a global e-commerce business that allows online payments and money transfers. The fact that the account was empty made no difference.
“They ended up getting my debit card number through PayPal,” Moore added, and she was charged the $130. Moore has since had that sum at least temporarily reinstated, under a policy that allows disputed transactions to be mitigated, but doesn’t know if she’ll get the money back in the long run.
The really sad part is, the computer didn’t work right after the “repair” job, Moore said. Fortunately, her daughter — who is a bit of a computer whiz — paid a visit and undid the damage.
“And I’m still getting calls from those people,” Moore said Thursday. “I got two calls yesterday.”
Moore has identified at least two companies contacting her, FIXIT Computer and My Computer Works.
She notified the Surry County Sheriff’s Office about what happened, as well as a state agency. “I’ve called the attorney general’s office two or three times,” Moore said. County law enforcement personnel told her that it is extremely difficult to catch people who hack into computers.
Based on comments by the service personnel she spoke with, Moore believes that having her computer turned on was a factor in allowing it to be compromised.
The Flat Rock resident said she is not alone in being targeted. “I know one person who got a call, but they didn’t get into her computer.”
In the meantime, Moore was compelled to warn other local residents about what happened. “That’s what I wanted to do so no one else would get taken,” she said.
“Make sure you’ve got a good virus protection (software program),” Moore said of steps computer users might take to avoid such scams.
And, she said, “I don’t leave my computer on anymore.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.