Hello dear readers!!!! I know it has been almost a year since I last wrote a blog post, but I have been busy fighting Trump and the GOP. And that little boy that I blogged about for many years just started his senior year of high school. Can you believe it? He is a man. It is so weird when your baby turns into a grown-up. Turning 18 right after the mid-terms, so he isn't eligible to vote. Bummer! But, that is not at all what this post is about, which you could probably tell from the headline.
June 6th started like any other day. I was doing what I have been doing since November 9, 2016; sharing articles and information about how we can save our country. All of a sudden, one of those scary warning thingies popped up on my screen.
WARNING. YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED WITH MALICIOUS SOFTWARE. Call this number before your computer blows up or something to that effect. I really should have asked my husband about it. Even though he doesn't do anything online other than receive and send emails and record voiceover auditions, he is often smarter than I give him credit for when it comes to technology. My son was at school, so I couldn't ask him. I did exactly what the scammers wanted me to do. I called them. Of course, he told me he was from Microsoft despite having a heavy Indian accents. He told me his name was "Rick Jones."
I said, "come on, I am not that stupid. That can't be your name."
He told me that Americans find Indian names incomprehensible so he just makes things simple by calling himself "Rick Jones."
The company that scammed me is called On Time Tech Supports and I suspect they are located in India.
I allowed them to access my computer remotely. Stupid, stupid, stupid. They told me my laptop was infected and if I didn't address the problem, the virus would spread to all my devices in my household and everything would be toast. Of course, there was a cost; the 2 year plan, 3 year plan and 5 year plan. All my devices would be protected and I could call him whenever I needed services. I'm sure somewhere in my brain that I knew this was a scam but was hoping it wasn't. I don't know why I didn't go with the cheapest plan, but I went with the middle plan for the low, low price of $249.99. I paid with a credit card and they even gave me a receipt. After about an hour, they told me everything was fine.
Fast forward to July 4th. I get a call from 'Microsoft." This seemed extremely odd to me that they would be calling me on a national holiday. It was also brutally hot and humid that day in Chicago. My son and his 2 idiot friends decided to light a fire in a fire pit in the backyard in order to make s'mores. This seemed like the most ridiculous and dangerous idea in the world since it was quite windy. I convinced them to move the fire pit into the alley. They set it up directly next to my neighbor's garage. Go figure. Turns out not one of them knew how to light a fire. I convinced them to move the fire pit into the alley, away from the garage. I ended up lighting and tending the fire....in 95° temperatures with 99% humidity. Just what I wanted to do on July 4th. But, I digress.
By the time the scammers called me, I was hot, cranky and pissed off, so I told them to call back the next day. They are nothing if not persistent. When they called me the next day, they told me that I now had a Trojan Virus on my laptop and if I didn't remove it, all my devices would be infected beyond repair. I allowed them to remotely access my laptop a second time. Yeah. I know. Really, really, really stupid!
Here's the kicker. They wanted another $300 and they told me since my laptop was so infected, they wouldn't accept a credit card. They told me to go to Walmart and buy 3 $100 gift cards and send them to them. At this point, I realized it was a scam. My son was home at the time. He started yelling at me....
IT'S A SCAM. HANG UP. TURN OFF THE LAPTOP. TAKE OUT THE BATTERY. SHUT DOWN THE INTERNET. BRING IT TO BEST BUY.
I told the scammer that I was on to him at which point he got quite nasty and told me I would lose all my devices.
Anywho, I did all those things my son suggested and spent another $219 to have Best Buy check it out. Turns out there wasn't any malware on it. They had removed the original pop up warning. They just try and scare people. I was really pissed off at myself. I have been online since 2004 and managed to avoid falling for any scams up to that point. Whatcha gonna do? I know better now.
I called my credit card company, Bank of America, with whom I have been a credit card holder since 1994. I told them that I was scammed and canceled the transaction. I canceled my credit card and had them issue me a new one. I figured they would believe me and refund the money. Not so fast. It went to the fraudulent claims department. I was originally issued a credit for the $249.99. If they determined it was a scam, the case would be closed. If they heard from the scammers, I would have to prove it was a scam or pay.
On August 7th, I called the Fraud Department and got sent to the Billing Department to see what was happening. I was on hold for at least 30 minutes. It was 3pm. The rep I spoke to, Laura, said the following words to me:
"Congratulations, you are off the hook. If the scammers do not get in touch within the next 2 hours, the case would be closed in your favor." That was the deadline for the scammers to contact Bank of America. She implied that was unlikely to happen. Woot woot for me!
I think it is all good until I receive a huge packet in the mail at 5pm on the Friday before Labor Day. I opened it to discover that it claims to be from Bank of America. I have until Monday, September 3rd, a national holiday where both the post office and banks are closed, to mail all my documentation to prove that I was scammed. If I don't, the case will be closed. Not possible. I am freaking out. And the whole thing seems so weird, including the illegible pages the scammers sent as evidence to "legitimize" their business. They also used a 3rd party company to intervene on their behalf; something called Chargeback Expertz LLC.
Here is a particularly incomprehensible sentence written by this company:
As it may often be the case that I am not aware of exactly what you received, can legibility read, or might be looking for - please be advised that should you contact me as ask for something pertaining to this case....
Now, I'm thinking this must be from the scammers and not Bank of America because the entire thing is so bizarre and unprofessional. I knew that the B of A customer service would be insanely busy after being closed for 2 days, so I took my packet and walked over to my local B of A branch, hoping this was another scam. A very nice man tried to help me. I ended up speaking to 2 people in the Billing Department, including a supervisor. Apparently, Laura did not understand how fraud claims work and misinformed me. Not my fault. Supposedly, I had a month to get all my documentation together. Nope. Nobody told me that, either. In utter desperation, I said to the supervisor, so let me ask you a question, off the record. If a company told you to go to Walmart and get 3 $100 gift cards, what would you assume is going on? She said, "it's a scam." But, sorry, she couldn't help me. The case is closed and I am liable for the $249.99
Dear Bank of America,
You must be aware that you are one of the most hated banks in the country. In fact, when I posted my experience on Facebook, more people left terrible comments about B of A than about scammers. How much profit do you make in a year? Billions. And yet, you can't do the right thing for a 64 year old, 24 year customer, by forgiving the $249.99 charge. Got it.