Boy, I sure had a really fun time last week.
I know it’s hard to tell, but that previous sentence was typed with dripping sarcasm, embarrassing regret and lingering angst. Because it’s the exact opposite of “really fun” when you get scammed. As in fraud, hoax and extortion.
In other words, I was hacked.
I clearly remember when hacking only meant cutting or whacking, as in “hacking off branches of a tree.”
Now, unfortunately, the popular phrase of “getting hacked” means some low-life, reprobate, fraudster, criminal uses ill intent, greed and internet voodoo to gain control of your computer and make a complete mess of your life.
Now, in my various jobs and leisure activities, I am on my computer, sitting bleary eyed in front of a screen all day, every day, and most nights. At least that’s what it seems like sometimes, so I should know better. Duh.
It’s early morning, I come downstairs about 10 per cent awake and the Better Half hands me the phone.
“It’s the bank,” she says, a worried look on her face.
I take the phone. A guy calling himself “John” lists a couple of large purchases that I never would have made and asks me if I made them.
“No,” I mumble through the brain fog.
“OK,” John says. “There’s a problem, but don’t worry, we here at the bank can fix it for you.”
So, helpful John tells me to sign on to my computer and type in a “bank code.”
I’m about 18 per cent awake by now, and I, with careful due diligence, do as I am instructed. Duh.
John is talking fast now, but I already consider him a good friend. Good, old John has me click on this, click on that and suddenly, my bank statement pops up on the screen, and sure enough, it shows two large purchases I didn’t make.
This woke me up to about 40 per cent fog.
“We will fix this for you, Mr. Harley,” John says again, and he transfers me to his “boss” named “Peter,” who tells me to copy down the transaction numbers of the bogus purchases very carefully and read them back.
About halfway through about 50 – I’m not kidding, at least 50 numbers – I begin to get a funny feeling … Duh.
“Excuse me, Peter, but how do I know you are really from the bank?” I say meekly.
My old friend John comes back on the line.
“You will see for sure,” John says. “We will fix it for you,” he says for a third time.
It’s then that I realize the cursor on my screen is moving around by itself. John has control of my computer.
I wonder to myself: what was he doing with my computer when I was busy concentrating on copying down all those numbers?
“Do you use our south branch or north branch?” John says quickly. “South,” I grunt, 80 to 90 per cent awake by now, which is my normal daily operating mode.
“That is the problem,” John says. “We’ve had to fire two employees in the south branch due to criminal activities. This is how your identity has been compromised.”
Alarm bells in my head start ringing so loud, it gave me an instant migraine.
“Wait a minute, there, John,” I say through gritted teeth. “No bank security person would share that information. I’m hanging up.”
The last thing I heard when I clicked the phone off as hard as I could was John telling me if I hung up, he wouldn’t fix everything for me.
But, oh, he’d fixed things for me, all right. The real misery had only just begun. Duh.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.