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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 11.03.14
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Phook, Phline, and Phsinker

This is one of the more embarrassing things I've done -- at least one of the more embarrassing that I can write about in a public forum. That thing with the parakeet and the margarine -- that's not getting airplay anytime soon. But this, there may be a lesson in here, so I feel the need to spill.

I have no excuses for what I did, but I'm going to make them anyway. I was tired. I had a lot on my mind. I was in a rush. We had recently made some changes to our Bell account. Our credit card had acted up at the gas station the night before. It was a perfect storm of stupidity.

So maybe that's why, when I opened an e-mail from Bell stating that there were problems with our payment and that our service would be cut off the next day unless rectified, my first reaction was not "Scam!" but "Rat bastards, Bell! Cut us off, will they?" And then I clicked on the link.

I know. I KNOW! Shut up, I know! I always know. I pride myself in being one of those people who knows a phishing scam when he sees one. I have a highly sensitive phisher sniffer.

In fact, I'm one of those people who delights in pointing them out, just like I have a hard time resisting the urge to debunk all those conspiracies posted on Facebook about how the dwindling bee population is scientifically linked to vaccinations administered in communities with fluoride in their water that is used to dilute the toxic chlorine on baby carrots that bees, ironically, really hate. Because of Obama.

Sometimes, I'll direct them to an article debunking the conspiracy on Snopes.com, although this is counterproductive when these same people claim that Snopes.com is, in itself, a conspiracy. But I do what I can.

So every time I hear about another victim of an e-mail scam, a feel great sympathy -- a slightly patronizing sympathy tinged with moral superiority and mild derision -- and then I think, "What kind of idiot falls for this stuff?"

This kind of idiot, apparently.

For the rationalizations mentioned above, I clicked on the link. I entered my account number and password on a page that looked like typically Bell-esque. On a second page, I entered my name and address, my e-mail, my credit card information and, yes, my Social Insurance Number. I didn't blink an eye. I even answered the question, "What is your mother's maiden name?" Sorry, Mom.

But now I come to the most shameful part of this phishy tale: We don't even pay our phone bill by credit card.

Stop making that face!

On top of the above feeble excuses, I should point out that I sometimes compartmentalize my thinking. I get so focused on one notion that I fail to notice other solutions or associations or the really, really stupid thing I'm about to do. Who am I kidding: I glove-compartmentalize my thinking. I didn't even notice the URL for the site was "www.weknowyourmomsname.co.uk."

If this were a movie, the audience at this point would be yelling, "No, don't do it! Idiot!" But like the sorority girl alone at the slaughterhouse, I opened that door. I hit "Continue."

BOOP! A warning from Mozilla flashed onscreen. "This site has been reported as a known web forgery, you plonkhead!" Or words to that effect.

"Oh. Oh no. Oh no-no-no-no-no! Plonk, plonk, plonk, plonk!" I muttered. Or words to that effect. Backspace! Control-Alt-Delete! Hail Mary! Hare Krishna! Anything. Agggh! What have I done? What am I going to do? I mean, specifically, what am I going to do when Deb gets home?

My hope was that Mozilla blocked the information before it was sent. To be safe, though, I immediately and sheepishly cancelled my credit card. As for my social insurance number being used to syphon off our life savings, we have no life savings. Sorry, hackers.

The next day, I visited my workplace IT guy. "I have something to ask you, and I'm really embarrassed," I said. With a set-up like that, he probably expected me to recount something about unstoppable pop-ups and a muffin fetish, so imagine his relief when I told him this sorry tale. Imagine mine when he said, "I think you're safe."

So here's that lesson I promised you: Phishing scams are like thunderstorms. They happen all the time and are mostly harmless. But every now and then they find the perfect (distracted, stupid) conductor. So always, always where rubber boots on your brain.

Of course, you're much smarter than me. Su-u-u-re you areā€¦

Actually, you probably are.

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