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Midland senior narrowly avoids 'long con' computer scam

'They are selling a service that doesn't need to be sold and the seller is causing the issue,' said local computer professional

Diane O'Hara is an active senior in Midland who prides herself on staying up to date with technology.

Recently, she went to her computer to read MidlandToday (a sister site to CollingwoodToday) and couldn't get into it. Shortly thereafter she got a telephone call from someone saying they had the expertise to fix her computer.

"I was suspicious," said O'Hara, 83.

"They told me a lot of money had been taken out of my account. They told me not to go to the bank that an employee was behind it," she said.

O'Hara said she doesn't do online banking so didn't believe that funds had been removed.

Then the caller put the "president" of the bank on the line.

"My husband told me to hang up," but she didn't.

The caller told her "whatever you do don't go to the bank." She was directed to go to Wal-Mart and purchase gift cards for more than $1,000 as a payment for fixing her computer.

O'Hara went to the Wal-Mart and the caller was still on the phone with her and told her not to talk to anyone in the store.

She didn't listen. She talked to a staff member who told her not to buy the gift cards. She didn't and told the caller she was talking to the Wal-Mart manager.

The call was then disconnected, O'Hara got in her car and headed straight to her bank. An employee there knew about the scam and asked O'Hara: "Did they mention not to talk to anyone at the bank?"

None of O'Hara's funds had been withdrawn from her account.

O'Hara hired local computer professional Wayne Robitaille to come into her home to fix the computer but before he arrived, access to her computer returned.

"It's a long con," said Robitaille of the scam that's been going for years. It's short-term for each individual caught in the scam, but it's affected a lot of people, he said.

"It's an old style of thieving with a modern twist."

The solution to the problem?

"Just hang up. Don't go down some radical rabbit hole."

The problem is that many seniors were brought up thinking that hanging up on someone is rude, so they are more susceptible to getting caught in the scam, Robitaille said.

Robitaille suggests that people who are unsure should always call someone they know.

"Go to a local computer store. Go to the bank."

Robitaille said the thieving doesn't stop after one time. If people pay, the problem will be fixed, but the "problem" will occur again, in as little as three months, and the owner will be asked to pay again.

"They are selling a service that doesn't need to be sold and the seller is causing the issue," said Robitaille.

O'Hara said she wanted to tell her story so others could avoid this "long con."

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Gisele Winton Sarvis

About the Author: Gisele Winton Sarvis

Gisele Winton Sarvis is an award winning journalist and photographer who has focused on telling the stories of the people of Simcoe County for more than 25 years
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