Tips to avoid hackers from a man who fell for their lies

I have this little framed drawing on my wall where I can see it from my desk.

It’s a little Emoji guy with a sad face and it says: “I can’t brain today. I have the dumb.”

It describes me fairly accurately, more often than I care to admit. And it’s pretty much the state of mind I was in a couple of weeks ago, when I got hacked and scammed.

I’ve publicly and painfully admitted to being stupid enough to believe the dudes on the phone were from the bank, and I was thick enough to follow their instructions to log onto my computer, and I was dense enough to get totally tricked into typing what I was told to type.

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I’ve been hacked by my new best friend

This gave the degenerate person on the phone remote control of my computer files, which resulted in a horrendous mess I will probably be wrestling with until the year 2042.

Don’t ever take advice from a guy who has the dumb, but just let me say from experience, if you get a phone call, email, text, paper letter, stone tablet or any other form of communication that tells you that you have a problem/issue/hitch or glitch with your bank account/credit card/income tax or lottery win, there is only one thing you should and must do.

Hang up and call the bank/agency or asylum in question yourself. From a number you look up yourself.

You’ll find out real quick who’s who in the zoo. I know I did.

It turned out everything was actually fine in the real world. It was fake news. No problems existed – except for the huge and ugly one the hackers had created by catching me in one of my can’t brain moments of having the dumb.

Because when you’re scammed, the misery is, well, really miserable.

Luckily, I didn’t give them any money – I had a small portion of my brain still left at the time – but who knows what information these hacker twerps got away with.

Will I still be able to get a tow truck with my AMA membership? Will I start getting exorbitant bills for bogus organ transplant services from Alberta Health Services? Will my Cineplex free movie card explode?

I spent the rest of the entire week of the hack on the phone reporting the identity theft to authorities, cancelling all my plastic, blocking all my pre-authorized payment thingies, and crying a little bit.

And here’s the thing: I was instructed by the official credit bureau to immediately shut off my computer, unplug it from the wall and take it out to the backyard and set fire to it in the firepit.

OK, I made up that last part, but for a person who spends approximately 96.8 per cent of the time on the computer (at least one per cent of that working) online down time is a real downer.

I had to get a computer expert to “clean” my computer and issue a Certificate of Cleanliness before I could get back online. It took two days to type last week’s column on my phone with my thick thumbs.

It was so bad, after three days in the digital dark, a worried representative from Netflix called to ask why I wasn’t signing in anymore.

But it’s finally OK now.

In fact, I got a nice note from a Nigerian prince, of all things. He needs my help getting his fortune out of the country, and if I transfer a small payment, I’ll get a huge reward!

Finally, a day without the dumb.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker.

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