Leah Fisher of Harrison now knows that you can’t be too careful when listening a stranger’s sad story after she was nearly scammed by a computer hacker.
Fisher, 80, said she was using her computer to look up a recipe on the internet.
“All of a sudden my computer locked up and it wouldn’t do anything,” she told the Daily Times.
Suddenly, a message appeared on her screen. It appeared to be from the Apple company and told her the computer had been compromised. She was urged to call the phone number in the message.
She called and spoke with a man identifying himself as “Jerry Anderson.” While speaking to the man, she asked several times if the message was some kind of scam, but he assured her it wasn’t and he worked for a company called “Technology Solutions.”
He told her the computer could be fixed for $299.99 and she gladly transferred to money. The computer was fine after that and she was happy with the result.
Then, a few days later, the man called her again. He explained that the company was going out of business and her money would be refunded.
In hindsight, she said, it was a mistake, but she gave out the necessary bank account information to have her money transferred back to her account. The caller then told her to check her account to make sure the deposit was complete.
To her surprise there was a deposit for more than $9,000. The caller began to cry, saying he had accidentally transferred too much money. He was going to lose his job and he had children to support.
“And I was a softie,” she said.
At first he asked her to go to Walmart and buy $9,000 worth of gift cards in $500 increments. She could then call him and read the numbers from the cards so he could access the money.
But Fisher said Walmart wouldn’t sell the cards in such a large amount. She contacted “Jerry” again and let him know the news, but he had another idea.
He instructed her to draw $9,000 in cash from her bank — she could keep all the rest of the deposit over that amount. He told her to put the cash in an envelope, wrap it in aluminum foil, put it in a box stuffed with newspaper and mail it to an address in California.
While that was going on, her husband, Joe, had gone to retrieve Fred Woehl, a neighbor and Boone County justice of the peace. He arrived about the time “Jerry” was giving Fisher instructions and took over the call.
That ended the deal, although “Jerry” began sending threatening messages to Fisher’s cell phone. All those messages then stopped when law enforcement became involved, she said.
The Fishers went to their bank to check records and discovered that someone had hacked into one of their other accounts and transferred money from it into the account where the deposit was made. That deposit was actually the Fishers’ own money and bank officials said they had never seen that in the past.
In the end, the Fishers weren’t out any money. In fact, even the original $299.99 for computer repairs was refunded.
Fisher hopes that other people will learn from the mistake she made.
“I’m just so thankful it worked out like it did,” she said.