Man with headphones at a computer

“Hello. This is Mark. How Can I Help You?”

This could be written by anyone

I almost fell for the whole story, hook, line, and sinker.  “They” almost convinced me to take money out of all my bank accounts and put it in a “safe, federally regulated” account at a machine – a Bitcoin machine, as it turns out. “They,” purportedly “Mark” from Microsoft and “Anna” from Bank of America, are smooth operators who prey on victims they confuse and frighten.

            This all started on a regular, sunny Wednesday afternoon.  I was googling for information about family crests for a writing project when a box popped up on my screen.  A loud voice repeatedly warned me to call the 1-888 number on the screen because I was being hacked.  I couldn’t minimize the screen; hitting the “esc” key did nothing, and then a blaring horn sound started blasting in the background while the warning to call the 1-888 number seemed to get more insistent.   So I ended up speaking with “Mark” from Microsoft, who gave me his Microsoft ID# and everything.   He told me what to do to turn off the warning message. He kindly put me through a secure line to “Anna” from Bank of America, who told me there was a pending charge of $6,800 from pornhub.com on my debit account.  Only forty-five minutes…. withdraw cash from all your accounts… don’t trust anyone at the branch because they’re the ones behind the fraud… do exactly as I say.

            Unfortunately, I panicked, went to the bank, and told the teller the story “Anna” had concocted for me as to why I needed to withdraw large amounts of cash from each of my accounts, which, even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I realized sounded completely ridiculous.  The branch manager politely escorted me into her office and proceeded to outline all the reasons why I was in danger of being victimized by a sophisticated hack.

            I turned off my phone, which “Anna” had explicitly warned me not to do, took some deep breaths, and then really listened to what the manager was saying.

            The manager asked me lots of questions, then told me about a client at that same branch who had recently lost $15,000.00 to this same scam.  That client came back to the branch several days later to find out if the bank was in any way liable for their loss, but since the client had withdrawn the money of their own free will, the bank had no responsibility.  The client told the manager that they deposited all the cash in a Bitcoin machine located in the back of a nearby business, near the restrooms, and that was that.  The client’s money vanished, never to be recovered.

             I researched this and other scams in the following days and will close with one comment posted on Reddit.  A user wrote something like this: “Perhaps the first clue that this was a scam, which my husband and I missed, was that someone from Microsoft answered the phone on the first ring.”         

6 thoughts on ““Hello. This is Mark. How Can I Help You?””

  1. thank you for posting and reminding. My sister was approached not long ago and happily called me to ask what it was all about. Whew

  2. I have received exactly the same scam “alerts” — three times this summer — and I’ve had to engage a computer guy to wipe the alerts off my screen. Unfortunately, I didn’t — and still don’t — know how to do that myself. It would be a great follow-up to this story if you could explain to those who get these computer-jamming alerts how to erase them without having to involve a computer technician.

  3. This is why I don’t answer phone numbers I don’t recognize and delete emails from unknown people. Fortunately, in your case, the bank manager alerted you to the scam.

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