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Even Smart People Can Get Hacked

My Thursday started the usual way: With a strong cup of coffee in hand, I turned on my computer and got ready to start my day, when the phone rang. It was a man with an Indian accent professing to be a Microsoft Certified Technician from a company called "TechBuddi." He said there had been a lot of reports from my "zip code" indicating new virus transmissions. He said that to repair them, he would need access to my computer to scan it with a special software that was a new update for Microsoft users.

Now I'm not the gullible kind usually. But I had, just a day earlier, received an error message from Windows on my computer. It was generating a report back to Microsoft and it seemed plausible to me that they may have gotten some sort of transmission from my computer that they were following up on. Also, they showed me their company website for "TechBuddi" which had the Microsoft-Certified Technician logo on the bottom lefthand side of their home page. If it's free how could it hurt me? So I allowed them to access my computer.

Over the next 30 minutes, the tech, who said his name was "Cyrus Brown," showed me a scan on my computer that indicated errors, spyware, registry problems, and various other "problems." It looked really bad and I felt panic setting in. When they told me they would install the free software to remove these issues, I felt - well grateful!

Cyrus and two other techs named "James Brown" and "Thomas Smith" assisted me at varying times with this project. After the scan was completed, Cyrus then asked me to pay him $150.00 for the service which would provide complete protection, 24/7, for a year. He also asked if I wanted to sign up for a Lifetime Membership. He didn't get to tell me the cost because I cut him off.

I told him that I didn't owe him anything because I didn't agree to pay for their service. I also told him what he was doing was considered entrapment. I asked where their office was. He said they were located in "Salt Lake, Utah." This sounded strange to me since it's called "Salt Lake City," not "Salt Lake."

He then told me I could call his company if I wanted to but the phone number on the website was located outside of the U.S.  Again, this was a bad sign. I now was pretty sure this company was bogus.

Since he was very insistent, I told him that I had no money to give him. He then asked if I was married and if my husband had a credit card I could use. I told him that I was not married and asked him why he was getting personal with me. He was obviously trying to get me to give him money before I checked out his references.

Finally, I said I couldn't pay him anything right now. He asked me when he could call me back and I told him next month - October 2011. Then I hung up and called my local IT company who told me that it definately was a scam, a hoax and that I had now compromised my computer and needed to bring it in to have the spyware removed that they had installed. I was warned to disconnect the Internet cable because they now had access to my online activity - even if I was not actively online.

Over the next five days, the IT repair shop ran scans and removed numerous viruses and strange files from my computer. It was not only expensive but caused my business to take time off. Finally, yesterday - Monday, Sept. 19, 2011, I got my computer back washed clean of all the viruses.

Today, as I fired up my computer to start my day, the phone rang. It was "Cyrus Brown." But this time, before he could get a word in edgewise, I told him that Pat was not in the office but that she had said that a fraudulent IT company, calling itself TechBuddi, had installed viruses on my computer. Needless to say, he hung up quickly.

To my fellow business professionals - home owners - Microsoft users:  Do not be taken-in by over-the-phone offers to repair your computer. Do not give out your name, email or any other identifying information to someone you don't personally know. You never know who is really on the other end of the phone and how they can use a "Free Offer" against you in the future.

Good luck and remember to protect yourself!