Saturday morning, 8.40, the phone rings. It’s the landline, better answer it. A chap comes on a crackly line with a really hard to understand foreign accent. But he is polite and wishes me good morning and after a few ‘pardons?’ he says he is from ‘windows’.
I tell him we already have double glazing.
He says, no, he means the Windows on my computer. In very serious tones he warns me that there is something wrong and he is going to help me fix it. I tell him he is very kind. He goes on to tell me that I have to switch on my computer and he will talk me through the process.
At this point I decide to end the charade. “But there’s a problem,” I say. “I don’t have a computer.” (I do.)
“You don’t have a computer?” he says in an incredulous voice.
“No,” I say, putting on my native Lancashire accent (think Thora Hird). “I’m 82, pet, what on earth would I do with a computer?” Click. He’s gone.
I’m 65 and I had a wee chuckle to myself, but then I got to thinking that he had just moved on to the next number on his list. And these people wouldn’t be bothered doing this at all if they didn’t have some success.
After all, he would only need to be successful one time in 100 for it to worthwhile.
My daughter Iona tells me that had I switched on the PC and followed his instructions he would have installed malware that would have give his gang immediate access to all my data including bank accounts.
I would have been cleared out.
Two days later I read in the paper that an elderly widow, aged 90, who lives near me in Craigleith, Edinburgh, has been tricked into handing over £50,000 in a ‘vishing’ scam. She said ‘I feel absolutely shattered now’. Poor woman.
And I am currently involved in the purchase of a property, and note that the first letter from the conveyancing firm has a red-printed warning at the bottom, which runs as follows:
Please be aware that there is a significant risk posed by cyber fraud, specifically affecting email accounts and bank account details. PLEASE NOTE that our bank account details WILL NOT change during the course of a transaction, and we WILL NOT change our bank details via email. If in any doubt, please be careful to check account details with us in person. We will not accept responsibility if you transfer money into an incorrect account.
This refers to recent scams whereby solicitors’ computers have been compromised, and purchasers of property have had large sums of money diverted to criminals.
This is the message that I want to send out to all you young folk: some of us oldies are not tech-savvy like you. Talk to your grannies, granddads, elderly neighbours. Warn them.
A simple rule to follow: if in doubt, ask advice from someone you trust. And remember: banks NEVER ask for your details by phone or e-mail, and NEVER phone out of the blue, and ask you to go on your computer and follow instructions.