Phooked

This is one of the more embarrassing things I’ve done – at least one of the more embarrassing that I can write about in a public forum. That thing with the parakeet and the margarine… that’s not getting airplay anytime soon. But this, there may be a lesson in here, so I feel the need to spill.

I have no excuses for what I did, but I’m going to make them anyway. I was tired. I had a lot on my mind. I was in a rush. We had recently made some changes to our Bell account. Our credit card had acted up at the gas station the night before. It was a perfect storm of stupidity.

So maybe that’s why, when I opened an email from Bell stating that there were problems with our payment and that our service would be cut off the next day unless rectified, my first reaction was not “Scam!” but “Rat bastards, Bell! Cut us off, will they?” And then I clicked on the link.

I know. I KNOW! Shut up, I know! I always know. I pride myself in being one of those people who knows a phishing scam when he sees one. I have a highly sensitive phisher sniffer.

In fact, I’m one of those people who delights in pointing them out, just like I have a hard time resisting the urge to debunk all those conspiracies posted on Facebook about how the dwindling bee population is scientifically linked to vaccinations administered in communities with fluoride in their water that is used to dilute the toxic chlorine on baby carrots that bees, ironically, really hate. Because of Obama. Sometimes, I’ll direct them to an article debunking the conspiracy on Snopes.com, although this is counterproductive when these same people claim that Snopes.com is, in itself, a conspiracy. But I do what I can.

So every time I hear about another victim of an email scam, a feel great sympathy – a slightly patronizing sympathy tinged with moral superiority and mild derision – and then I think, “What kind of idiot falls for this stuff?”

This kind of idiot, apparently.

For the rationalizations mentioned above, I clicked on the link. I entered my account number and password on a page that looked like typically Bell-esque. On a second page, I entered my name and address, my email, my credit card information and, yes, my Social Insurance Number. I didn’t blink an eye. I even answered the question, “What is your mother’s maiden name?” Sorry, Mom.

But now I come to the most shameful part of this phishy tale: we pay our phone bill by direct deposit, not by credit card.

Stop making that face!

On top of the above feeble excuses, I should point out that I sometimes compartmentalize my thinking. I get so focused on one notion that I fail to notice other solutions or associations or the really, really stupid thing I’m about to do. Who am I kidding: I glove-compartmentalize my thinking. I didn’t even notice the URL for the site was “www.weknowyourmomsname.co.uk.”

If this were a movie, the audience at this point would be yelling, “No, don’t do it! Idiot!” But like the sorority girl alone at the slaughterhouse, I opened that door. I hit “Continue.”

BOOP! A warning from Mozilla flashed onscreen. “This site has been reported as a known web forgery, you plonkhead!” Or words to that effect.

rossshock“Oh. Oh no. Oh no-no-no-no-no! Plonk, plonk, plonk, plonk!” I muttered. Or words to that effect. Backspace! Control-Alt-Delete! Hail Mary! Hare Krishna! Anything. Agggh! What have I done? What am I going to do? I mean, specifically, what am I going to do when Deb gets home?

My hope was that Mozilla had blocked the information before it was sent. To be safe, though, I immediately and sheepishly cancelled my credit card. As for my social insurance number being used to syphon off our life savings, we have no life savings. Sorry, hackers.

The next day, I visited my workplace IT guy. “I have something to ask you, and I’m really embarrassed,” I said. With a set-up like that, he probably expected me to recount something about unstoppable pop-ups and a muffin fetish, so imagine his relief when I told him this sorry tale. Imagine mine when he said, “I think you’re safe.”

So here’s that lesson I promised you: Phishing scams are like thunderstorms. They happen all the time and are mostly harmless. But every now and then they find the perfect (distracted, stupid) conductor. So always, always wear rubber boots on your brain.

Of course, you’re much smarter than I am. Su-u-u-re you are…

Actually, you probably are.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Family - whadya gonna do?, It Really Did Happen! and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

58 Responses to Phooked

  1. markbialczak says:

    Hey, Ross, it sounded real to me, too. Anybody can take that bait, you know. The Bell was ringing. You needed that account to stay alive!

    Scammers are always evolving, too. The other week, somebody tried to Phish me with a direct message on LinkedIn! Marko Bialczak had died in another country and his attorney needed to name me his unknown heir so I could be wired $20 million in funds!! All I had to do was call the attorney in a foreign land and have all my important information ready to tell him over the phone!!! Had to be true because it was on LinkedIn and the dead guy spelled his name with a k and not a c, right?!

  2. “Or words to that effect.” I can imagine, starts with “Ph” and rhymes with,… um, let’s see… truck, maybe?

  3. pinklightsabre says:

    You and that phisher sniffer. You might get it checked, could be clogged or in need of a new filter. In fact, my brother-in-law can get you a deal on that if you give me your home mailing address.

  4. I just got an e-mail saying that the U.N. has awarded me $500,000 in actual American dollars. It’s the U.N., so it HAS to be legit, right? It makes perfect sense considering I once walked right by the U.N. on a trip to New York, and sometimes I think important, humanitarian-type thoughts. It’s about time they recognized my greatness. They said they will wire it to me if I just e-mail them my pertinent information. See? Money sometimes falls right out of the sky!

  5. Having worked as a network administrator for a small company, I so enjoyed it when employees would forward spam to me. “Is this legit?” This was even before phishers got much more sophisticated and usually shortly after I’d sent out a company reminder to stop clickety-clicking on every single thing that popped up on the screen.
    We’ve all taken the bait on occasion, but lately you don’t have to do anything but go shopping and you get screwed (hello Target and Home Depot). As with all crimes (and phishing is one), the onus of blame is not on the victim, even if chagrin and embarrassment is the after effect.

  6. Scott says:

    Those damned Nigerian princes just don’t ever give up, do they?

  7. Paul says:

    The phishing scams are getting rather amusing and I often take a few minutes to read them through. The English still hasn’t improved a lot though. Some look so real and have even attempted to hide by using url names that are reasonable – like “microsoftmaintenace”. There was a scam recently that gave a deadline for complying and kept sending new messgae daily counting down that deadline and urging me to contact them before my computer failed. As much as i recognized it, I have to admit I held my breath when the day got to zero – but nothing happened. Ha! I wonder what happens to these messages when I click on the “phishing Scam” button on my e-mail and they disappear. Is there a Phishing Central somewhere that ruthlessly hunts down the senders and imprisons them? Or is this just a case of keeping us happy and nothing is done?

    Anyway Ross, it could have happened to anyone – thankfully it seems no harm has been done.

    May the force be with you.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      The Microsoft ones are devious.
      Ever look at the WordPress spam? They don’t even seem to be after anything, just gobbledygook. You really have to wonder what the point of them is, except to be annoying.

  8. Ned's Blog says:

    At first I though the title was “Phook, Phline and Sphincter,” so from a reader’s perspective this was actually a lot less frightening than it could have been. That being said, I keep getting something from iCloud saying it needs me to update my information. It looks legit, but I have trust issues with something I don’t understand anyway. So far I have resisted their emails warning me my space is full and might suddenly crash, unless I send money to some Canadian guy named… hey — WAIT A MINUTE…!

  9. Carrie Rubin says:

    What a scare that must have been. I can see how it could happen though, especially since you’d just been in communication with Bell. Glad things worked out okay, or at least they seem to be. What a hassle for you though.

    I frequently get emails from FedEx and UPS–well, phishers pretending to be FedEx and UPS. They’re so convincing. They say, “We were unable to deliver your package. Please click the link for your printing label.” Or something to that effect. The first time I got it, I had to think about it for a moment. But then I realized, neither FedEx or UPS would have my email so I knew it was a scam. I’ve gotten dozens since, and I later read this is one of those scams that leads to your computer being hijacked and held for ransom. Lovely.

  10. Elyse says:

    Hmmm, my comment on Carrie’s comment seems to be hanging out there, instead of nicely, safely bundled up with the other Carrie comments …

    I personally don’t think you would fall for something like this, Ross. So I think that this post is a pfishing scam all of its own. The only way I’ll believe that this is true is if you tell me your mother’s maiden name …

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I will tell you my Mother’s maiden name because it’s so much fun: Worthylake. Straight out of Jane Austin, no?

      • Elyse says:

        That is wonderful!

      • List of X says:

        You may consider changing your mother’s maiden name (don’t worry, just for the purposes of using for getting into your accounts – and you don’t even have to tell her or update any of her ID’s).
        At the very least, you should remove it from your comment, because you’re just making it so easier for the next scammer. I’m not joking – this how all those celebrities get hacked, because so much of their information, like mothers maiden names, is publicly available.
        P.S. You might notice a search term “Ross Murray mother’s maiden name” in your stats, so don’t panic, that was me just testing the theory whether someone can now find it with a simple google search. (Someone can) However, if you see more than one search like this, please do panic. 🙂

  11. Aargh…we just finished rescuing an elderly relative who got sucked into having multiple (and I mean 20+) pieces of malware on his computer. Oh, and they took his credit card info. You have my sympathy.

  12. ksbeth says:

    i think we all are potential scam victims, especially when our defenses are down or we’re distracted – the criminal trolls work the scam based on numbers, knowing they’ll get lucky every so often. don’t beat yourself up, we’ve all made decisions that we would have advised anyone else against )

  13. Lily says:

    Ughhh I hate stuff like this. Glad you survived. Barely.

  14. Last Saturday afternoon I clicked on what looked like a genuine Java update. My browser was instantly hijacked and infected with a virus. It took Toshiba two hours of remoting in to clear my computer and it cost me $100. While on the phone, the IT dude said he was infected because he clicked on an email from his brother-in-law that included pics of his nephews. How they got into his brother–in-law’s account, extracted pics and used them as a virus-delivery vehicle is still a mystery to him. He said they’re getting more and more sophisticated. The black hats will always be a step ahead of the white hats.

  15. Melanie says:

    “Where rubber boots on your brain”??

  16. HappyApathy says:

    A lady i work with almost gave our entire member list out to a scammer. Somehow the guy rigged the email to have the CEO’s email address in the ‘from’ line — so my coworker thought it really was the CEO making the request. The email said to also send the list to some hotmail address too, though, so . . .that was a clue that somethin wasn’t right. She actually requested the data pull and was going to send it.

    Never know what will come in your email, your home or your work email.

  17. japingape says:

    This reminds me of Tom and Jerry cartoon. Tom is being chased by Spike the dog and suddenly turns round and throws a stick over the dog’s head, saying “Go get it, boy!”. Spike chases after the stick and realises he’s been fooled when the stick is in his mouth. His head turns into the head of a jackass.

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