Identity Theft: Cloud Files and Urgent Phone Calls

by: Kathleen Pickering


Will the real Kathleen please step forward?



Masked Ladies


While we may seek to keep our identity private, either by costumes or maintaining a low profile (the latter of which I have no idea how to do!), I learned a really hard lesson over this weekend.

I learned that the potential for identity theft could even happen to me.

Early Saturday morning I was awakened by an urgent phone caller telling me that my computer (which was in “sleep” mode) was downloading dangerous viruses that would soon crash my hard drive.

I questioned the caller. He said he was with Microsoft Windows and that I was wasting precious time by asking questions. Now, I’d like to say I was half asleep, but my gut reaction was to hang up on this dude and I ignored myself.

What an idiot!

When will I learn to trust my gut? I’m telling you. No more Ms. Nice Piks in this corner. No. No. No.

I am embarrassed to tell you that I trotted into my office and gave this clown remote access to my computer so he could show me the infected files which turned out to be error and warning messages typical of Microsoft files. Then he proceeded to try to sell me an antivirus program for $130.

I said, no. He bullied me some more then I hung up. But no, that wasn’t enough. He was still remotely connected. When I notated on the screen that he should exit my computer, he had the audacity to tell me to wait–twice!

In hindsight. I should have turned the darned thing off, but hindsight is 20/20—and the slimy dog had control of the mouse. Sheesh!

I posted the episode on Facebook and folks responded saying they’d had the same or similar experience and the guy really was trying to get me to by an expensive antivirus program. I hope that was all. Others offered advice on restoring my PC before the event to eliminate any viruses he may have planted.

Then, I went and purchased an Identity Theft system to monitor my PC. I learned some interesting info and want to share it with you.

There are plenty of sites out there to give info on how to protect against identity theft. is a good place. Here’s a link to compare Identity Theft services: Compare IT Services.

I also found tips to prevent Identity Theft. One point of vulnerability is storing your data on Cloud or DropBox—remote sites to hold files instead of on your own computer. You end up trusting your on-line server to protect your stored files from hackers. Word is that the law is nebulous over who is liable for data theft on these sites. Since Cloud and similar services are free, the user is usually held responsible for any breach of information. Do your homework before placing valuable information out there!

Here are a few tips to avoid Identity Theft:

1. Instead of signing the back of your credit card, write “request ID”.

2. Shred everything that has your name on it.

3. Destroy Digital Data. Erase any info on discarded computers, smartphones, etc. that hold data on you. Break them, if all else fails.

4. Read through statements carefully. Be sure your being billed for items/services you purchased.

5. Don’t leave mail in the mailbox. Easy target for looters.

6. Check your credit reports at least once per year.

I bought Identity Guard for my computer because not only does it monitor my SS#, bank accounts, loans, credit cards and the use of my name, phone and address, Identity Guard monitors my PC with an anti-phishing and virus protection called Zone Alarm for the duration of membership. I feel pretty confident that I’ve protected my security at last.

Another site, 5Identity Theft Protection, offers tips to protect social media activity and internet passwords. Here’s the link. This site is loaded with info: Identity Theft Protection

Here are some additional warning signals I found on 5Identity Theft Protection to tell if your identity has been compromised:

– you are denied credit or loans for no apparent reason

– monthly credit card statements, utility bills, etc. stop arriving

– you receive a credit card without asking for one

– you receive bills from places you haven’t been

– you receive notices from collection agencies

– some of your mail is missing.

Hope this info helps and encourages you to think of me if someone asks for access to your computer. If they call you, the answer is, NO! (I know, you already know this!) Be sure to think twice before putting your valuable information into the ether-net for purchases and signing up at different sites. Always check that the site is secure. In closing, I wish that your identity only be lost as far as the next costume you wear!

Happy writing!

xox, Piks


23 thoughts on “Identity Theft: Cloud Files and Urgent Phone Calls

  1. Good tips, Kathy. As we become more reliant on technology, we also increase the chances that someone out there wants to take advantage of that dependency. A couple of additional tips: Have a strong password on all your online accounts. Minimum of 16 characters is just a starting point. There are a number of websites that you can check the strength of your password. Here’s one:

    Most credit cards allow you to configure email warnings if your account goes up by a preset amount (percent or dollar amount). You’ll get an instant email alert if it does.

    Love the pictures, by the way.

  2. Wow. It’s a scary world. For all the good things the Internet has to offer, it’s brought criminals into our homes, the kind that don’t have to wear a mask or break through our front door. Thanks for the tips.

  3. Good info, Joe. Thanks! Yeah. Thought I’d bring a bit of levity into the conversation with corny photos. 🙂

    Jordan–you are so right. These folks are daunting and so darned BOLD!!

  4. Thanks for the head’s up, Piks.

    Yikes! So sorry that creep got to you like that. One of my nurses at work last week had a Microsoft look-alike prompt pop up on her computer. She called me, and when I looked at the web address, I thought something smelled fishy.

    We were able to stop it before it did any damage. It looked real enough. I laugh at myself because I’m so suspicious, but…

    I haven’t used those cloud services because I don’t trust them. I back everything up to zip drives.

    Thanks for the security info – I’ll check it all out.

  5. That’s scary, Kathy. But if I got a call like that, I’d be really leery. I would hang up and call my computer guru to come out and take a look, after I ran a scan with my Norton anti-virus program.

    I did find erroneous charges on two different credit cards recently. Every month, I carefully check each listed item against my receipts. These two charges I didn’t recognize. Although they were for minor amounts, the credit card companies gave me the credit back and issued new cards. One can’t be too careful. Be vigilant with your account statements.

  6. Oh, and I use Dropbox and love it. But mostly what I back up to it are my writing files so I can share them among my computers. I also use Mozy online backup service. I’m more paranoid about losing data in a computer crash than my files being hacked.

  7. Kat, Your so cute. “Just say no.” When a woman as cute as you says that to me I respond with; “If you love me you’ll let me.”

    Note to self; When calling Kathleen always call in the wee hours when she is still in a sleep stupor.” 🙂

    Love you lady!!!


  8. The upside to the cloud is that your data is offsite. If your house burns down and your external hard drive melts, your work is still safe on the cloud.

    The downside is you have less control over your data, and who can access it. So consider carefully what you store there.

    I think the cloud is a great place to store manuscripts, but I wouldn’t put my tax or medical info there.

  9. I had an issue years ago when someone got hold of discarded deposit slips, probably in the trash. They’d deposit bad checks in my account and withdraw cash from the deposit, a little at a time.
    In the cloud era, security is a real issue because many companies have terrible corporate security. (I used to work for Symantec, so I know!) I haven’t started using the cloud, for that reason. And no matter how good security gets, hackers and thieves often manage to stay one step ahead.

  10. About a month ago I was home with a cold when a string of spanish-language PayPal emails hit my inbox “thanking” me for my purchases.

    I was writing it off as spam when my BS meter pinged and I went to my PayPal account. $600 was missing. Then I went to my bank account. Another $700 was missing. I got on the phone and shut it all down.

    At first Paypal was all like, “are you sure someone in your family didn’t use your account.” Yes, I am pretty sure my Chihuhuas didn’t send $1300 to a cell phone in South America.

    Next it was, “why don’t you email them and ask them to refund it.” Okay, this is where I unsheathed the lawyer fist of death and demanded to be connected to the legal department . . . NOW.

    It took a couple of weeks and I am lucky that my mortgage holder is cool, but I got it squared away.

    The culprit was a $5.00 donation to the Red Cross Joplin tornado fund I made using eBay’s “missionfish” application. eBay and PayPal still refuse to believe me.

    Good common sense advice all the way around. The “request ID” one is outdated because of card-swipers and businesses can legally refuse to accept an unsigned card.

    One to add to the list. Never use peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing networks like BitTorrent. All the piracy and copyright issues aside, the site downloads a fileshare app to your computer that can lead to you accidentally sharing files you didn’t intend to, or the malicious ones leave the door to your network open. The FTC has filed over 100 cases of failure to protect data against big companies that didn’t monitor employee use of P2P and found their data running free on the net.

    Finally, here is an adventure from a couple of years ago when my bank, in Buster Keaton Keystone Kops tradition, tried to protect me from a perceived threat. Grrr . . .

    I’ve never got the phone call, but I did have a remote site hijack me and then try and ransom my system back to me (I do all my businesses online so I am always a target). I didn’t bite and was able to fix it myself. Glad you got it squared away.


    PS: And identity theft is very real. I defended a poor guy picked up on a traffic warrant and charged with murder because someone had used his info to construct an identity and killed somebody. I had to prove my guy was who he said he was and wasn’t that guy. Hey, that needs to go in my next book.

  11. What Terri said.

    I do use cloud storage via dropbox, but like Nancy just for my manuscripts or sharing files with audiobook and voice over customers. Oh, and my sunday messages for my church, that way I can do the powerpoint at home and access it immediately on the church presentation computer.

    My brother used to be a cellphone fraud investigator. He said there’s a surprising amount of people who steal cell phone codes and next thing you know drug dealers in South America are making calls through your phone without your knowledge. Likewise with credit cards.

    By the way, my one addition: if you use your debit card at a store, tell them to run it as credit. That way you’re not putting in a pin that will get stolen if the machine was hacked. My son had $600 drained from his account with some grocery and donut purchases in Philadephia after purchasing dinner at the restaurant where he worked here in Anchorage Alaska..he’s never been to Philly.

  12. Great pictures, Kathleen. Now I need to hunt up a set of jumper cables so I can get my heart started.

    A couple of addendumbs…those who have older parents who live independently with some diminution of mental faculties may want to check their folks’ caller IDs, etc., as they are particularly vulnerable to these scammers. Even if they’re not online, the caller will try to sell them I.D. or home security with the fees conveniently deducted automatically from credit card or bank accounts. I’ve had friends whose parents bank accounts were cleaned out that way.

    Also, a tip of the lid to Basil re: the debit card use as a credit card. One also avoids those pesky point of sale fees that some cards tack on by indicating that it’s a credit transaction. At some places (pay at pump gas stations) you’ll have to go inside and pre-pay but it’s worth it.

  13. Great post. I also turned off remote access in my settings so no one can get into my computer. Plus we have norton and have never had any issues.

  14. Carl– you are soooo funny!!! xoxo

    Teri—GREAT stuff. Thanks so much for sharing. What a crazy world.

    Paula, Nancy, Kathryn, thanks for your thoughts and input. Can you imagine if people just stopped being BAD?!

  15. Basil–I agree w/you and Nancy and Mark Boss that the Cloud is good for manuscripts and such info. Just not good for personal info. Discernment, eh? (Like I had it when that idiot called! LOL!)

    Joe–you are too sweet. 🙂 And another good tip. THANKS!

    Robin–I’m turning off my computer every night now. Turning off remote access is a great idea, too. Thanks!

  16. Now there’s an article published that describes some huge infection of servers and PC’s that logged on (Comcast?). There’s a link to an FBI website to find out if you’re infected. HELLOOOO! It’s probably a ruse. You think? I for one am certainly not clicking that link 🙂

  17. There are certain types of files and information that should not be stored online, but cloud file storage is still very useful for everything else. Anything that contains personal information should always be kept offline, and after a specific time, these should be shredded and disposed of to prevent identity theft. As for online file storage, it’s great as a backup for files that you have on external hard drives. All hard drives have the potential to crash at some point, so to have storage that won’t crash is very convenient.

  18. At least nothing serious or unlawful happened. But I think it is a lesson learned, especially for those using a cloud system for their files. If your PC has enough storage space for your files, keep it on your computer. But if your files are too big for your PC memory, be sure to check for an online storage system that has a quality security software to prevent identity and date theft.

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