I guess I’m a sitting target. I have almost been scammed again, but thanks to the commercial and financial geniuses who run the world, I’ve been saved.

It was the most elaborate scheme you can imagine, almost worthy of a sci-fi drama. Maybe it began as one.

My computer presented me a box with a message from Apple computers. I had been hacked, said a technician, and we had to fix it.

Pages and pages of numbers and letters followed, with directions to me to push this and punch that. I can’t remember it all, but some I wrote down.

The messages were coming from a man named Sim Phodes, Employee ID MAC7613 (probably fake).

For some reason, I believed everything he said and followed directions to the letter. This guy was good, ultimately talking on my landline phone, then my cellphone, for hours and hours.

His bottom-line statement was that I had been hacked by a Russian, and that $6,000 had been taken by him from my bank account. He didn’t have it yet, but he had been approved for the transfer. A photo of his driver’s license appeared on my computer screen. His name was Nicolai. Don’t remember the last name.

We had three hours to get the money back.

The way to do it, the tech insisted, was to buy $6,000 worth of gift cards. The guy suggested Kroger and, later, CVS, as places to buy.

I never did understand why to buy the gift cards, but I presumed that would come later. The man stayed on my cellphone and directed me through the night, store to store. I was to keep my phone in my pocket and not talk to him inside the store.

My story concerning the purchase of the card was that they were for my granddaughter who was getting married.

It was an emergency for her, of course, hence I was running around in the dark on a Saturday night.

Kroger’s discussed the matter, found that Visa rejected the funds I requested and turned me down flat for another try. They suspected fraud. I insisted it wasn’t.

At CVS, their machine also rejected a request to BBVA Compass. They also were wary.

The moral of the story is don’t trust your own judgement. The guardian angels at banks and credit card companies are watching after you.

In the CVS parking lot, it finally dawned on me that I was almost scammed. I told the guy I was through with his scam. He said he would call me tomorrow.

I hung him up. He hasn’t called back. No money lost.

Cathy Gillentine is a Daily News columnist. She may be reached at cathy.gillentine@comcast.net.

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(4) comments

Carlos Ponce

Awaiting a phone call on my landline about my hospitalized brother I did not check the caller ID last week. I heard about my Apple account I-cloud being hacked. I was instructed to press "1" to speak with a representative. Since I have no Apple devices I knew this was a scam. My telephone messages also tell me about suspicious activity on my Social Security number, my American Express Card (which I don't have), my Microsoft Account (failure to respond would result in $300 being charged to my account), etc. Just about all of these were robocalls, usually but not always with a foreign accent. But they're persistent. The robocall about my SS number left 8 messages. None of the calls are legit.

Bailey Jones

I'm sorry you had to go through this. Scammers are the lowest of the low. And they usually target us older folk. A good rule of thumb is to never click on anything that comes in an email. If you believe there's a problem with an account, get to their website the way you normally do. If you think it's urgent, call the number on the back of your credit card or account statement. Popup boxes are almost always fake. I'm not an Apple person so I don't know how they work, but on PCs there should always be an anti-virus security / firewall program (Norton or McAfee for most people). It's unlikely they they are going to pop up and say "hey, we let someone hack your PC".

I'm concerned that the box got through your firewall - were you online at the time? If so, I would never return to that website. If you weren't online at the time, your computer may have been infected. If you clicked on the box, your PC may have downloaded some malicious program. Again, I'm not an Apple guy, but I assume there's some sort of anti-virus on your computer that you can run to scan all your files for viruses and malware. Maybe someone more knowledgeable will chime in and help with the details. But I would be skeptical of this machine until it's been scanned and declared safe again. Good luck!

Charles Douglas

Absolutely! I get those calls all the times and sometimes many times a day. I first was angry for getting them, but I don't like to be controlled by anger, so I just never answer them. If the number is not one I recognize it will not be answered but deleted. Same with emails. I don't use credit cards and have not for decades, I prefer debit cards, and because of the ability to use the internet, I don't use personal checks, since someone passed a few on me in another county some years ago. If we had as much effort, imagination, and productivity it takes to steal, deceive, and scam others.....invested instead in hard work, honesty, and pride in one's accomplishments, this world would be two-times better. This represents the the wicket, twisted condition of a man's soul spiritually, if left untreated by the righteousness coming from the Word of God. Had to get that in there!

Jose' Boix

Also beware of "scam" call from Publisher's Clearing House (PCH); crafty and seemingly "trusty caller" notifying you as the winner of a large Million Dollar prize plus a new Mercedes Benz auto. The "caller" apparently knew the "winner's" address and was going to deliver next AM. The "catch" proviso was to open a new bank account with $1 and then...And you can foresee the rest of the story! Just beware; do not respond to such received EMails that "look" proper. In this case, the "customer" called a real PCH number and was told of the "scam." Beware!

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