Yesterday, I came quite close to becoming another police statistic.
Fortunately, nothing too violent, more of a psychological event – it was cyber-crime.
We hear about this every day.
Essentially, there are two schools of thought (as with everything).
The first, that doing things online is far safer than carrying bundles of cash around with you and going to the shops i.e. Amazon for a book versus Waterstones; the former conducted from my home or on my phone, protected by layers of security and technological wherewithal, and, poor Waterstones – not only do I risk a car crash getting there, I could be attacked in the street, pick-pocketed, and so on.
You get the idea.
It isn’t black and white.
Or, yes, it is black and white, although more Yin and Yang.
Back to my cautionary tale.
It began in Bristol.
Eating lunch with my nephew; for whatever reason we touched on the subject of ‘Junk Mail’ – this is email that is skimmed-off by computer defences as the content appears to the email client ‘dodgy’ – mail offering for me to get rich quick, acquire another aphrodisiac, that kind of thing;
On the flip side, because the technology is clever, but not clever enough, some genuine mail pops into this folder – this is a recurrent theme for NHS email, where the bar is naturally set quite high. And, because of this security, you are sometimes advised, ‘Check your Junk Mail’
And this is where the story began.
I was looking in my folder the next day;
There was a mail from the TV Licence people.
I thought, ‘Oh.’
I realised that recently I had received a new bank card; I assumed, ‘They must need my new details,’ and, the way it was worded, I thought, ‘I’d better do this straight away – you know what the TV people are like.’
(I have never seen a radar van, although I believe they exist).
It was just after the start of the financial year and this was made more real by a recent run of TV adverts from the licence people showing what might happen if you don’t pay.
It was classic psychology of fear.
Despite my better judgment, I moved the file into my Inbox, followed the link and input my details.
I guess this would have been bad-enough; supplying a dodgy website with my bank details.
The real badness happened the following day.
I received a call from my bank;
Now, I have long been one to call screen and not answer numbers from Clitheroe and Cambuslang; accepting that these are usually credit robots.
This was different as my phone gave my bank’s name;
I thought, ‘That’s odd,’ but considered, ‘Well, it must be the bank.’
I answered and was led through a complex fear-mediated routine from the fraud team, acknowledging that I had input my data recently into a fake website (the TV one) and it was their role to fix things.
Heck, when I challenged them they volunteered my name, address and frustratingly (and stupidly on my part), mother’s maiden name.
It got as far as them asking me to log-in to my online banking – yes; I did this.
At the point of the guy directing me to move an overdraft into my current account so they could consolidate the funds and open me a new account that my suspicions increased; that and the flaky internet-enabled quality phone call.
When I questioned further, they again resorted to fear;
‘We need to do this in order to stop the people with your account details from accessing more funds,’ ‘If you hang-up now, we will not be able to guarantee your money,’ ‘If you call back there is an up to 45 minute wait for the fraud line.’
Fortunately, my son was listening-in to the conversation and his internet primed Spidey-sense had worked out what was going on and I ended the call.
Calling the bank immediately afterwards I learned that I had been the victim of cyber-crime and had got-out just in time.
The costs, losing my mum’s maiden name as part of my security milieu; something I found highly invasive and also feeling very stupid and paranoid.
It is over now and weirdly, I think because the bank felt sorry for me, they offered me free concert tickets.
(I phoned them back on a different line to ensure that my phone hadn’t been hacked too. Weirdly speaking to the same call-centre person, which again led to a whole sequence of questioning… What were the odds…)
I know, a bizarre sequence of events.
What I think upset me the most was the consideration that I had been duped – what might have happened to someone without an internet-savvy son nearby? Even without losing money, the sense of invasion of my privacy was horrible;
Made worse I think because the conversation was with another person, with what I thought to be a Yorkshire accent.
The bank later told me they could have been from anywhere in the world using accent creation software.
I suppose we have to muddle through, putting our faith into something.
And we wonder why the Right seem to triumph in elections;
It is fear and their supposed offer of certainty.
Give-up a little of our human rights and we will be safe.
All hard to accept.