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Column

Beware of scammers and fraudulent schemes

First came text messages, then attempts at fraud

I don’t want to say that New Year’s Eve is just another day — obviously that isn’t the case — but my husband and I usually spend the day and evening pretty quietly. Our wedding anniversary is four days later, so we wait to go out to dinner until that day.

So New Year’s Eve, I usually make something “fun” for dinner — homemade pizza is usually our go-to for that night. New Year’s Eve this past year was unfolding to be peaceful as usual.

After dinner, I settled in for the evening. As my phone chimed, indicating an incoming text message, I thought, how nice — my daughter is texting to say “Happy New Year.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

I looked at my phone and discovered a message from the Fraud Center. That’s the name given to my bank’s system to monitor the use of my bank card. The question the text asked was whether I had tried to use my card for a $39.95 purchase at some website. Well, I had not, and by answering no, I was given instructions to call an 800 number. I have been through this before, and it frankly makes me angry and frustrated. By calling the number, my card is immediately locked and canceled. In talking to the representative, I was told that someone had made three attempts to use my card on a dating website.

As someone who does try to see the humor in any situation, this made me laugh. A dating website? Really? I don’t think so, I would be celebrating anniversary number 32 in four days.

The representative chuckled along with me. Each of the three attempts had been denied, and I had been contacted immediately about the threat to my card and my money.

Thankfully, no money was taken from my account, and my card was no longer functional if additional attempts were made.

Of course, there are consequences when something like this happens. I got a new bank card and then had to make changes to any automatic payments that are tied to that card. I have a few — nothing major, but a few small things that are paid through the card.

A couple of weeks after this incident, I received a text message stating that my Microsoft account key was going to expire and it was imperative that I contact a particular number listed. My brain immediately returned to having to replace my debit card and that with that comes having to change those things that were tied to that card for payment.

One of those things is my Microsoft Office programs that are on my computer allowing me to type documents, create spreadsheets and also other projects. The programs in Microsoft Office are usable because I pay a small fee to keep them current and active. So I immediately believed that I hadn’t made the necessary changes and therefore I should call the number.

To say the least, I should have thought much more thoroughly and carefully before calling that number. I was connected to an individual who spoke with an accent that was very difficult to understand. This should have been more of a red flag for me than it initially was.

I was directed to a specific location on my computer and was told to look at all of the items and programs on my computer that were not running correctly or had been turned off. I began to question how this could happen and began to question him more seriously as to him being from Microsoft. He then quickly said he was going to have me talk to his managing supervisor.

The second individual on the phone was much more forceful, telling me that I needed to pay them money to keep my “account key” active. The “account key,” I was told, was what kept my Microsoft Windows and my computer running.

OK, now I am really getting skeptical. The Microsoft Windows came with the computer. It isn’t something that I purchased later. He told me that it is only purchased for a limited amount of time. Really? Are you sure, I asked?

This has been a long story, but after finding out that he wanted me to pay him $300 for this account key, I became fully aware that this was a scam. I told him I could almost purchase a new laptop for $300, and that I would be doing some additional research into this before handing over that much money. He became angry and told me he would just shut down my computer. I immediately hung up.

I just want all of you to be aware of these scams. I am embarrassed to even admit that I called the number, embarrassed that I even fell for that much of this scam. I did some investigating and discovered that this is a common scam and there is basically a script that is used, and it is always almost the same.

These people are smart enough to steal accounts and steal from you. Why do they not use their intelligence to get a job or do something good?

It makes me angry, it makes me very angry. It made me want to write this column, it made me want to let people see that these things can happen to anyone. Be careful, everyone, be very careful.

Note to readers: Nita Wyatt of Wyanet can be reached at wyattnm1950@yahoo.com.

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