December 04 2015

 Jenny Palmer

 

Fatal Mistake

Cold cocoa

 

Mona was on the point of waking when the phone rang. She was still tired, having been up half the night, gazing at the super moon. This one was special. It was combined with a lunar eclipse. When the earth passed between the sun and moon, the sun’s rays cast a red glow, turning the moon ruby-red. It was a chance in a lifetime. Well, in her lifetime, that was for sure. It wouldn’t happen again for another thirty years.

As she lay there gazing at the moon from her bedroom window, she had been filled with a warm feeling. Perhaps the tide was turning on the planet after all and people would stop all this fighting and start working together for peace for a change. It was high time.

‘Hello. Microsoft calling’, the man said. ‘I believe you’ve been having trouble with your computer.’

‘Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I have,’ said Mona. ‘I’ve been getting an awful lot of spam lately. I’ve been practically tearing my hair out over it. How did you know?’

‘We have our means,’ said the man, joking. His voice was warm. For some reason she felt she could trust him.

‘It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I block the spam emails or mark them as spam, they just keep on coming,’ she confided. ‘My computer man is off sick at the moment and my service provider haven’t been much help either. They just tell me to change my email address but I’d rather not do that, if at all possible. It’s such a nuisance. I can’t do without email. I live out in the sticks, you see. I rely on it to keep in touch with people.’

‘I understand,’ the man said. ‘Turn on your computer and I’ll see what I can do.’

It was a pity she hadn’t had time to get dressed but she had to get this thing sorted. Before long she found herself following his instructions. He scanned through her files and showed her the ones that were corrupted. There were over thirty thousand of them!

‘But how could that have happened?’ she said, incredulous.

‘Your computer has been taken over by various websites who are using it to spread their propaganda. Look.’

He showed her the corrupted files. He highlighted the files from the suspicious websites. It was horrific. There were some which dealt in pornography, others that were paedophile sites and others coming from a terrorist organisation.

‘My God,’ she’d found herself saying, under her breath. ‘To think I have been helping these people carry out their dirty work.’

‘But how do I know you are from Microsoft?’ she had the presence of mind to ask.

‘The logo is there on the page,’ he said.

Sure enough, there was the Microsoft logo on the top of the page.

‘Look,’ he’d said, clearly noticing the hesitancy in her voice. ‘Don’t worry. We can fix it for you. I’ll pass you over to our senior technician and he will guide you through.’

‘But….’ she started, her mind full of images of horrible people doing unspeakable things in her name.

Another voice came on the phone, sterner this time.

‘Hello,’ he said. ‘I can fix your problem but first you will need to hand over the control of your machine to me.’

‘I don’t want to do that,’ she said, boldly.

‘Look,’ he went on, ‘if you don’t, we will be forced to lock down your machine. You will never be able to use a computer or send emails again. And we will have to report you to crime squad.’

‘Well, alright,’ she said meekly. ‘What do I have to do?’

First you need to give me a few details. What is your address and area code? Do you have mobile phone?

Oh, he was good alright. She had to give him that. She’d found herself trotting out her details, one after the other: her name, her address, her area code, her mother’s maiden name, her age.

He’d made some comment when she’d told him her age. He’d said her voice sounded younger. His attempt at flattery. She hadn’t like that.

Then he’d shown her pictures on Google of the founder of her antivirus provider who was currently serving a prison sentence. Her provider was a fraud, he’d said. He was responsible for passing on her details to these websites.

‘How much do you pay for your antivirus?’ he asked. ‘I can set up a new one for you. It will cost £200 but it will be a one-off payment for life. And I’ll get a refund for the old one. If you’ll just give me your bank details, I can get it paid straight in.’

‘I don’t do internet banking,’ she said. That seemed to floor him.

‘Why are you lying to me?’ he asked. She knew for sure now. It was a scam. Her heart was pounding. Her head was spinning. Was it too late to get out of this? Had she given too much away? How could she stop it?

There was only one way. She put down the phone and switched off the computer.

She realised she was still in her pyjamas and it was nearly twelve o’clock. She must have been on the phone for hours. She would go upstairs, get dressed and start the day again, compus mentus. How could you tell person’s age from their voice? It was just plain silly.

As she was coming back downstairs, all hell broke loose. The landline was ringing, both upstairs and down. The mobile was ringing. Her computer was flashing. She picked up the landline slowly.

‘What happened?’ he said. ‘You realise we will have to cut you off permanently now and report you to the crime squad.’

But she wasn’t worried. He couldn’t get at her any more. She had won. He had made one fatal mistake. Saying that thing about her voice. It was a cheap trick. Did he really think she would fall for that?

 

About the Author

Jenny Palmer returned to her native Lancashire in 2008. In 2012 she published her childhood memoir called Nowhere Better than Home about growing up in rural Lancashire in the 1950s and 60s. She continues to write short stories, poems and articles on local history. s to something longer soon!

Published December 04 2015