A woman’s plot to hack beau’s phone back­fires

The Washington Post - - STYLE - AMY DICK­IN­SON Amy’s col­umn ap­pears seven days a week at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ad­vice. Write to askamy@amy­dick­in­son.com or Amy Dick­in­son, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, N.Y. 13068. You can also fol­low her @ask­ingamy.

Dear Amy: I’ve been scammed by a hacker.

I’m a mid­dleaged woman. My fi­ance of five years is a chronic liar, and he has cheated on me. I know in my head that I should leave him, but my heart won’t let me.

He is in a 12-step pro­gram and says he is try­ing to change, but I stupidly tried to hire some­one to hack his phone.

I sent this per­son $300. I have an email from them stat­ing that this was the cost. Later the same day, this per­son said it would cost an ad­di­tional $120. I re­fused to send more money, be­cause I came to be­lieve that this was a scam. This per­son now re­fuses to re­turn my money.

Do I have any re­course? I’m afraid to go to the lo­cal po­lice. I’m afraid it’s against the law to hack some­one.

I’m out $300, I don’t know what to do. Can I go to the po­lice?

— Scammed by Hacker

Scammed by Hacker: You seem to have fallen for an “ad­vance fee” scam. I con­tacted the FBI field of­fice in Chicago for an ex­plainer.

Ac­cord­ing to Agent Siob­han John­son, FBI Chicago spokesper­son: “In an ad­vance fee scheme, a vic­tim pays for some­thing of value only to re­ceive lit­tle to noth­ing in re­turn. This type of crime is ex­tremely com­mon and ap­pears in many forms.

“When you en­gage with an on­line scam­mer, you open the door to a host of fu­ture prob­lems — from cy­ber in­tru­sions, to iden­tity theft, to ex­tor­tion. Of­ten, the only way to stop the cy­cle is through good cy­ber hy­giene (chang­ing pass­words fre­quently, re­quir­ing two-fac­tor authentica­tion, etc.) and re­port­ing the crime to law en­force­ment. More on cy­ber hy­giene can be found on the FBI web­site: fbi.gov.

The FBI is the lead in­ves­tiga­tive agency for cy­ber­crimes, and vic­tims are en­cour­aged to file a re­port with the In­ter­net Crime Com­plaints Cen­ter (IC3) at ic3.gov.”

Now that you know you’ve been had, yes — it is il­le­gal to so­licit a phone hack­ing. No, I don’t think there is much en­force­ment re­course for you.

The scam­mer might be work­ing out of a cafe in Nige­ria or Bo­gota. The scam­mer might be a 14-year-old named “Skippy,” or pos­si­bly your boyfriend, cat­fish­ing you.

You should con­sider this $300 as an in­vest­ment to­ward your own fu­ture. You do not trust your boyfriend enough to stay with him. Your judg­ment is quite flawed when it comes to him. If you turned over any of your (or his) per­sonal in­for­ma­tion to the scam­mer (phone num­ber, bank in­for­ma­tion, etc.), you should take steps to cor­rect this. (And if the scam­mer could hack your boyfriend, couldn’t he also hack you?) If the scam­mer turns up the pres­sure or threat­ens you in any way, you should def­i­nitely go to the po­lice.

Dear Amy: My hus­band passed away two months ago, and I have slowly found out things he had told his fam­ily and friends about me and our mar­riage that are not true!

I am hav­ing such a hard time ac­cept­ing that he is gone. Now that I re­al­ize he has told ugly lies about things that are so un­true — I can’t get any clo­sure.

I feel such a sense of be­trayal, and I just don’t un­der­stand his ac­tions.

His fam­ily be­lieves ev­ery­thing he has said, and I feel snubbed by many of our friends.

What do I do? Where do I go from here?

— Be­trayed

Be­trayed: Your first stop should be to a grief coun­selor and/or a grief sup­port group. Your lo­cal hospice cen­ter and hos­pi­tal will have rec­om­men­da­tions for lo­cal re­sources. This is vi­tal.

Write down your thoughts. On pa­per, re­fute ev­ery sin­gle lie and mis­lead­ing state­ment you are aware of. I also think that you should cor­rect the record and de­fend your­self at ev­ery turn, if you have the en­ergy. (You might not.)

This is a ter­ri­ble be­trayal, and, un­for­tu­nately, you may not un­cover his mo­ti­va­tions for ly­ing about you.

Bud­dhist thinker Pema Cho­dron is my go-to sage and com­fort. You can dip in and out of her book, “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Ad­vice for Dif­fi­cult Times” (2016, Shamb­hala), and find wis­dom, com­fort and heal­ing.

Dear Amy: I thought your ad­vice to “Wor­ried Daugh­ter” was way off base. It is not a daugh­ter’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to take care of her dad with de­men­tia. As long as he has a wife, he is her re­spon­si­bil­ity. The daugh­ter can help pay for his care, if nec­es­sary.

— Dis­ap­pointed

Dis­ap­pointed: I hope you warn your spouse.

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