I thought about my kids, both residing in different cities. And my mother, living alone in a nearby condo. When the phone rings at 6:45 in the morning, you assume the worst.
The call was from a 203 area code – somewhere in Connecticut, I later learned. The voice was heavily accented, Indian or perhaps Pakistani.
“Mr. Martinez, this is Microsoft Security calling. Did you receive a message from us on your computer alerting you of a security breach?”
I rubbed my eyes, still glazed by the remnants of sleep.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “It’s not seven o’clock yet. You woke me up and I’m a little hazy. What is it you’re saying?”
The voice on the other end cut me off, speaking quickly to convey a sense of urgency.
“I’m sorry sir, but this is an emergency. Someone has already hacked into your computer and is attempting to gather personal information. Did you receive our warning? Are you near your computer?”
I wandered over to my computer, not quite fully awake.
“Is your computer on? I can guide you through the process.”
With increasing consciousness came awareness: our home computer is a Mac. There would be little reason for Microsoft to contact us.
“How do you know it’s our computer?”
He mentioned my wife’s name and garbled something that sounded like our home address, so he obviously had some information about us. But nothing that he said identified our computer.
“Listen,” I said, “I don’t believe anything you’re telling me. I think you’re full of it. Good bye.”
I hung up and immediately did a Google search on “Microsoft telephone scams.” I learned that hackers are now using phone calls (usually from throw-away phones) to gain access to personal computers by calling and saying that they are with large companies such as Microsoft. They steer unsuspecting victims to links that will give the hackers access to home computers and then steal personal information with malware. According to Microsoft’s website, the company never calls home users to alert them of computer hacking in the manner suggested by my early morning caller.
So I dodged a bullet by coming to my senses and hanging up. Still, someone out there has some of my personal information and is attempting to gather more. So, as the new year approaches, I have become increasingly concerned about hackers and identity theft.
Welcome to 2015.