A White Rock senior who had her email hacked last month is sharing her experience in the hopes of preventing others from being taken by a similar scam.
But while Juanita Czervenatis said she feels “stupid” for falling for it – though she realized the scam and took action before it took a financial toll – Const. Chantal Sears said that, as a victim, the senior is not alone.
“It could happen to anybody,” Sears said. “I’m sure she is not the only one who has fallen prey to it.”
Czervenatis said the incident occurred last month, as she was checking her email. Her screen suddenly turned red, and a message popped up advising her to call Microsoft’s technical department.
The man who answered took her name, address and phone number, as well as her email address and password, then told Czervenatis that her computer had a virus and that he could help – but it would cost her US$220.
She became suspicious when the man changed the currency of the bill to Canadian and told her to send a cheque to ‘Global Service Info LLC.’ When she was hesitant, he “kept talking,” she said.
“He said, ‘don’t you have money to pay the 220?’ He kept me on (the phone) for one hour.
“I got so scared, I hung up.”
After talking to her son, Czervenatis called police, cancelled her credit cards and contacted her bank and Internet-service provider.
Sears said by the time she arrived, the senior’s email account and Facebook profile had been taken over, so she arranged to have a warning posted to Facebook.
Tracking down the perpetrators of such scams is near-impossible, Sears said.
The phone number that Czervenatis called was quickly disconnected; the address given was for a post-office box in Alabama that was registered to a numbered company.
Sears said authorities in the U.S. told her “this happens all the time” – but that news was not a surprise. In one local file earlier this year, the victim was asked to make a $10,000 wire transfer, Sears said.
Czervenatis said she, too, is convinced other seniors are being targeted.
"You think it's not happening but it does. A lot of people are being scammed. They're just not talking about it, because of the embarrassment," she said.
She said going public with her own experience is worth it if it prevents even one other person from being scammed.
“It was so bad. My day was just consumed with fear. I thought if it would help someone else…”
Sears said there are steps people can take to better-secure their computers.
Those include activating its firewall; using anti-virus/malware software; and installing and updating anti-spyware software.
Anyone who suspects they have been targeted is encouraged to report the information to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca