I was real­ly torn about shar­ing this event as a blog post…

As I write this, it’s been just over a week since the event took place and after a lot of thought, I decid­ed this was the right place to share it. I feel this is a sto­ry that needs to be told and as a blog post, it will live on my web­site, which I have con­trol over, not social media.

I am well aware that as you read what hap­pened that there will be plen­ty of read­ers with thoughts of “good grief, how could she have been so stu­pid?” and “are you kid­ding me?” and “I real­ly thought she was smarter than that…” but what I learned is that this can hap­pen to ANYBODY and I share at the end, WHY I think it hap­pened to me.

On Fri­day, August 5th, I had a 7 AM mam­mo­gram appoint­ment, fol­lowed lat­er by tak­ing Joe to our pri­ma­ry care physi­cian for a fol­low up “how are we doing” appoint­ment at 9:45 AM. 

If you are new to my sto­ry, my hus­band, Joe, is in ear­ly stages of Alzheimer’s and no longer drives.

Both appoint­ments went well and once home from Joe’s appoint­ment, he went in to change clothes, came into my home office and was in an agi­tat­ed state.

One of the trig­gers for peo­ple with Alzheimer’s or demen­tia is being out of rou­tine and the doctor’s appoint­ment that morn­ing was just that.

I won’t go into the details, but the rest of the after­noon was stress­ful to say the least…I was exhaust­ed and feel­ing hope­less about my abil­i­ty to han­dle every­thing as things pro­gressed with Joe in the future.

Final­ly, around 4 PM, things had lev­eled out a bit with us and I remem­bered I need­ed to order some con­tain­ers for my per­son­al chef business.

I went into my office, sat down at my desk, held my com­put­er mouse and clicked it. 

In full screen mode, a page appeared with Microsoft con­tact infor­ma­tion, along with a loud, author­i­ta­tive male voice say­ing “DO NOT EXIT THIS PAGE…YOU MUST CONTACT MICROSOFT IMMEDIATELY…there is sus­pi­cion that your sys­tem has been compromised…you must call to avoid any breach to your secu­ri­ty and loss of files…” 

I couldn’t get rid of the voice and I remem­ber star­ing at the 1 – 800 num­ber thinking….”wow, maybe Win­dows 11 and this new com­put­er have real­ly caught some­thing bad that’s hap­pen­ing to me…” my com­put­er was 2 weeks old, so I called the 1 – 800 number.

A woman answered the phone, intro­duced her­self as Chris­tine, on the Microsoft Cus­tomer Ser­vice team, asked me my name, ver­i­fied my email address and asked “how can I help you?”

I told her about the full screen pop up and the warn­ing “voice” and she said so calm­ly, call­ing me Ms Eliz­a­beth, not to wor­ry, she would help me and took me through the steps to remove the alert, click­ing on the Win­dows icon, going through some sim­ple steps she walked me through and it was gone.

I was feel­ing bet­ter already.

She then said that she need­ed to deter­mine if there was an actu­al issue by doing an ini­tial scan of a cer­tain directory.

She had me down­load a soft­ware pro­gram, sim­i­lar to one that I’ve used before with my IT guy for com­put­er repairs, that will allow her to access my com­put­er to see where it was tru­ly compromised.

The screen that showed up next once she was in looked like the old DOS screens, just words and bits of code and she talked to me as she was scrolling and “look­ing”. I was feel­ing tak­en care of and reassured.

It took about 5 min­utes and then she stopped scrolling, sighed and said…”oh no…you have been hacked.”

I of course pan­ic and say “what does this MEAN?

This is a brand new computer…how could this hap­pen? What should I do? Are you going to help me?

She stayed so calm and reas­sured me that Microsoft does every­thing in their pow­er to keep their cus­tomers SAFE and this WOULD GET RESOLVED and not to WORRY.

She was going to put a team in place on my case and it would take some time to locate the hack­ers in the data and elim­i­nate them…

I would be safe, not to wor­ry and to keep this process to myself and not talk about it to any­one, as there wasn’t any way of know­ing at this point, who might have been involved in this breach.

Chris­tine instruct­ed me to make sure I had all of my devices on as the hack­ers infil­trat­ed through your IP address…yes, that made sense to me…so I opened up and turned on my Chromebook. 

She also said that dur­ing this process, we would need to stay on the phone line, to keep her on speak­er so I could hear her if she need­ed to talk to me. If we got dis­con­nect­ed, she would call me back. 

Ok, I’m so relieved there is a plan and this is going to get fixed! I’m real­ly feel­ing tak­en care of and I am so grate­ful for Christine.

I tell Joe what is going on, know­ing that he real­ly doesn’t under­stand what it all means, but he’s hap­py that I am feel­ing con­fi­dent that it’s all going to be fine…the hack­ers will be elim­i­nat­ed and my com­put­er and data will be FINE.

About an hour or so lat­er, Chris­tine speaks up on my phone and says she needs to give me some information…they’ve locat­ed some trans­ac­tions that are pend­ing and to go to my computer.

I can still see the DOS screen work­ing on my mon­i­tor and she asks if use social media and if I bank online…I said yes to both and that I do use the Key Bank online por­tal, pri­mar­i­ly for deposits to my busi­ness account. 

She said there were three trans­ac­tions, two from Rus­sia and one from Chi­na, pend­ing to process to be paid in the amounts of $1,837.59, $889.97 and $1,345.98 and we need­ed to get on the line with the Key Bank Fraud depart­ment in order to move for­ward with a solution. 

Chris­tine had me open a brows­er win­dow, go to Key​Bank​.com and read her the cus­tomer ser­vice number.

She told me to hang up with her and she would call them, explain who she was and would get a rep­re­sen­ta­tive to call me and to give him her name and Microsoft badge num­ber of 2002. 

Soon after, my phone rang and I was thrilled to see the caller ID as the Key­Bank cus­tomer ser­vice num­ber that is on the back of my deb­it card….what a relief.

I answered and a very polite man intro­duced him­self as Paul and said that he had dis­cussed briefly with Chris­tine what she dis­cov­ered on my computer.

He then asked me if she tried to sell me any­thing and I said no, and I had her Microsoft badge number…2002.

He was sat­is­fied with that infor­ma­tion that she was authen­tic and assured me he would be able to resolve what­ev­er the prob­lem was, but first, he need­ed to do some inves­ti­gat­ing on his end. 

Paul asked me to go ahead and get logged into Key­Bank online while he was research­ing any pend­ing trans­ac­tions about to take place.

He then says, yes, he sees that there are three trans­ac­tions for $1,837.59, $889.97 and $1,345.98 and that all three have been approved by email.

I said “WHAT EMAIL? I nev­er got an email from KeyBank?” 

Paul said when­ev­er there are trans­ac­tions that appear to be “unusu­al” for one of their Key­Bank cus­tomers, they always send an email with the require­ment to approve it.

He said I had replied with APPROVE on each of the transactions…which were sched­uled to be processed the fol­low­ing day.

He said in the case of being hacked, the hack­ers actu­al­ly open and respond to the email and delete it before I am even aware it’s been sent.

Now I’m sick with fear and almost in tears.

Paul was so nice. He said “Liz, this will be OK, I promise. Your mon­ey will be pro­tect­ed, we just need to go through a cou­ple steps.”

“We need to remove the funds from the account that is com­pro­mised, which is your per­son­al sav­ings account.

You will need to go to your branch and with­draw $11,700 of the $11,760.08 that is in the account.

There is a chance the teller might want to know what you are going to do with it and I want you to not alert them in any way about how we are solv­ing this as this depart­ment needs your coop­er­a­tion in order to stop this inter­net crime.

I want you to stay on the line with me and tell me when you arrive at the branch and then again when you are fin­ished and back in your car.”

I fol­lowed his instruc­tions to a tee, even telling the teller I was help­ing out a grand­daugh­ter with buy­ing a car…always feels so good when you’re in the posi­tion to be able to help out and she agreed.

Now I’m back in the car and head­ing home, feel­ing relieved that this is almost over…the trans­ac­tions wouldn’t go through as there was no mon­ey in the account…sigh of relief. 

Paul now tells me that I need to make a stop in order to put the funds into a Fed­er­al Reserve account so we could reopen a new account on Monday.

I need­ed to go to an address he gave me that was for a Cir­cle K gas sta­tion. He said when you get to the park­ing lot to alert him I was there. I did as I was told. 

Paul said “there is a Bit­coin machine inside. I will take you through the account set­up. You will need your driver’s license to scan so have that ready.”

After the account was set up, he said “I’m going to send you a QR code to scan and then you will deposit the mon­ey into the machine and every­thing will be fin­ished until we set up your new account on Monday.

You will get a receipt from the trans­ac­tion and I want you to take a pic­ture and text it to me for con­fir­ma­tion.” I did as I was told…I’m think­ing it’s safe, my mon­ey is in a safe place.

In the mean­time, while I was doing all of this, Joe was at home beside him­self with con­fu­sion and wor­ry as to what I am doing and won­der­ing why I’m not home…he called me numer­ous times while I was feed­ing the Bit­coin machine $11,700 in one hun­dred dol­lar bills, one at a time and hop­ing no one grabs me while I’m in the process…

Once home and able to calm Joe down, I could see the DOS screen of Christine’s still work­ing on scan­ning for hackers…she did say it could take a few days with the team on board…

I was relieved to know some­one was tak­ing care of ME and this would soon be over.

Now things get worse…

Sat­ur­day morn­ing, after a great break­fast with a friend, I get home and Chris­tine has alert­ed me that Paul has emailed her and he needs to talk to me and is this a good time….it’s about 11 AM…I say yes.

Paul calls and gives me the news that both of my busi­ness accounts have been com­pro­mised and we will need to do the exact same process as the night before, but to trans­fer the entire bal­ance of my sav­ings account into my check­ing and then take $15,000 out in cash…

So I repeat­ed the same process as the night before, all along being reas­sured by Paul that come Mon­day morn­ing, all of the funds would be released from the Fed­er­al Reserve account and into new Key­Bank accounts.

I had faith in him, he told me NOT TO WORRY, this would NEVER hap­pen again, my mon­ey was SAFE.

So the rest of the week­end, Christine’s “team” is still on my com­put­er and I’m told that I’ve had 62 breach­es by hack­ers, 7 of which they have “cleaned” from Rus­sia, Chi­na, Lon­don and Ohio and were hop­ing to be fin­ished up by Mon­day sometime…

I was so ready for this to all be fin­ished and relieved this would solve this problem.

Sun­day I was feel­ing real­ly pos­i­tive this was all going to be over with soon and decid­ed to do a lit­tle paint­ing to relax, so I head­ed up to my art table and got started.

The rest of the day was good, I felt pro­tect­ed and cared for and was look­ing for­ward to our din­ner with Mom and Steve that night, all along keep­ing Chris­tine on the phone line as I was told to do.

Mon­day morn­ing, I was up ear­ly, excit­ed about get­ting this whole ordeal fin­ished lat­er that morning.

I went upstairs to paint and decid­ed to mes­sage my sis­ter in Aus­tralia to say HI..we chat often. 

Christine’s team was work­ing but my phone con­nec­tion with her didn’t start until 6 AM and it was 5:30 so Car­olyn and I could mes­sage each other.

I decid­ed to share what was going on with Car­olyn as I was con­fi­dent all was going to be back to nor­mal lat­er that morn­ing and thought how could it hurt by telling her. 

Car­olyn imme­di­ate­ly thought I was being hacked and I reas­sured her I didn’t think so…the whole process was so professional…and then she sent me a link about a scam like this and my heart and stom­ach start­ed to ache a bit, but I real­ly still had faith and trust this was all going to be FINE.

I drove Joe to his office in Lebanon at 6:30 AM and Chris­tine is now on the line.

Over the week­end when Chris­tine and I would speak, she would often ask how Joe was doing from time to time, as I men­tioned his demen­tia and him being anx­ious about all I was going through…she was being so thought­ful to ask…she real­ly cared.

She assured me this would all be over soon and with the secu­ri­ty mea­sures that Microsoft would add after all of this, that I could rest assured this would NEVER hap­pen again…what a relief.

On my way home from drop­ping off Joe, I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask Chris­tine for some proof from Microsoft that she was who she said she was.

She said that she would have to have her man­ag­er send that over and it might take an hour or so. I told her I real­ly need­ed to see SOMETHING now.

She sends a screen­shot over text of a pic­ture tak­en of Microsoft let­ter­head with a piti­ful para­graph about who she is…blah blah blah. I’m sick to my stomach…BUT I’m still hope­ful about talk­ing to Paul in a cou­ple hours…he’s from Key­Bank so he must have my back.

I hang up on Chris­tine and close the scan­ning process on my computer.

I call Paul on the line we’ve been com­mu­ni­cat­ing on oth­er than the Key­Bank cus­tomer ser­vice line and tell him I feel I’ve been hacked and am almost hys­ter­i­cal at this point.

He calm­ly says, “Liz, I’m on my way into the office. I will call you from the Key­Bank cus­tomer ser­vice line…you will see it will be all OK, give me an hour.”

And sure enough, he calls me from the Key­Bank cus­tomer ser­vice num­ber but tells me he has to wait until he gets the call from the Fed­er­al Reserve that my funds have been released. 

I tell him I don’t believe him, that I now real­ize I’ve been hacked and scammed over a 4 day peri­od and can’t believe they can hurt peo­ple this way…

I will be hurt and affect­ed by this, but I won’t lose my house or car because of it, but it would do that to a lot of people…I’m devastated.

So smooth, so com­fort­ing, so pro­fes­sion­al, so KIND…ALL LIES.

I cried for hours, feel­ing so STUPID, so VIOLATED, so SAD about how anoth­er human can PLAN such a crime…I can’t com­pre­hend it.

The final phone call…

Paul calls at 2:30 PM…I decide to answer…say’s “Hi Liz, I just want you to know that the Reserve has released your funds and you will be receiv­ing a FedEx let­ter overnight­ed with your new deb­it card and checks for your new accounts.” 

I respond with “I don’t believe you and I can’t believe you’re call­ing me…you’ve scammed me and I’ll sur­vive but there are oth­ers who might not have…I had faith that you were help­ing me and instead you’ve robbed me through that trust…you’ve led me through a 4 day tor­tur­ous scam with pre­tend­ing to be KIND…” 

Paul then took a deep breath and calm­ly said, “you know what Liz, you’re right…you have been scammed”….and then the next voice I hear says, “Hi Liz, this is Chris­tine from Microsoft”…followed by bone chill­ing laughter…


After all of the self loathing, shame and tears…I stood up and thought about what was real­ly tak­en from me…and it was just money. 

I could have made it more than that, but I’m not giv­ing Chris­tine and Paul that power…and over the next two days, I fin­ished the paint­ing I thought might remind me of this hor­ri­ble life expe­ri­ence, decid­ing it rep­re­sent­ed SURVIVING it.

I did report it to the FBI and the FTC and of course, my bank…which felt hor­ri­ble, but couldn’t do any­thing as I was the one that with­drew the money.

I real­ize now that had I been in a stronger state of mind on that Fri­day after­noon at 4 PM, I might have made a dif­fer­ent choice mov­ing for­ward when that alert screen appeared…probably called my IT guy, asked any oth­er adult in my house oth­er than Joe, called a friend or sim­ply just shut down my computer…but I didn’t.

I respond­ed to the nat­ur­al response of being tak­en care of…trust, relief, comfort…and when you are tired, vul­ner­a­ble and con­fused, it’s a RELIEF when a hand reach­es out and says…”it’s all going to be fine…I promise, I will help you…” and it’s com­fort­ing to just fol­low the rules to get there…

I was the most shak­en through all of this because I have such faith in peo­ple and I’ve already decid­ed this inci­dent will NOT keep me from STILL hav­ing that, I will always want to believe the BEST in people…can’t help it, it’s my sto­ry, it’s who I am and I’m stick­ing to it…

BUT, what I have LEARNED the most out of all of this is, if I am tired, feel­ing sad, vul­ner­a­ble or just not sure about what to do next and I’m in a posi­tion to make a deci­sion about some­thing real­ly impor­tant is to…STOP…think MORE than twice and ASK some­one else to help you…those that LOVE you will have your back…

If this expe­ri­ence of mine res­onates with you, please share it social­ly or how­ev­er you see fit…if just ONE per­son stops and thinks twice before a Chris­tine or Paul leads them down a path they will regret for­ev­er, then this post will be worth it.

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