The day took a somewhat unexpected turn for me yesterday when Keith decided to make the hour long trip to Bear River to replenish some of the pens that he had on consignment in the artisan shop "Flight of Fancy". He had received a call from the owner, Rob a couple of weeks ago and was asked to bring more fountain pens, as the last one he had there had just sold.
Even though Keith doesn't do much turning anymore, he still had some stock of beautiful pens left, and since it was a beautiful day and the sun was warm and shining, he thought it would be a nice time to take a drive to the shop. He asked me if I wanted to accompany him and even though I was gearing myself up to work on my own project, I decided to go with. After all – these days don't seem to come often and there would certainly be time to work later on. After the long winter I wanted to be sure to take advantage of as many opportunities like this as possible.
We took the road along the ocean, where the drive took a little longer, but the scenery was nicer. After all – we may as well enjoy the time we had. We did our business at the shop and stopped in one of the cafe's in town for a nice lunch. The tide was low and downtown Bear River was as picturesque as always.
It was a beautiful day, and by the time we returned home it was nearly 5pm.
Keith then headed off to meet his friend at the gym and I began to catch up on the daily mail and messages that had accumulated throughout the day. One phone message was from the hosts of our website and the message asked me to phone them back as soon as possible. I wondered what could be up, and hoped that nothing was wrong with our site, as they said it was very important.
The number had an 801 area code, which is where the offices are located, so even though it was a little later here in Nova Scotia, because of the time difference I knew I still had time to reach them. I called back to inquire as to the reason for the seemingly urgent call. I phoned back and got the person who left the message on the line(it was supposed to be a direct number.)
He spent the first five minutes or so of the phone conversation asking me general questions regarding my opinion of the service they provided as a web host. I had been with the company for probably about 13 years and was generally satisfied, but there were a couple things that I would like to see done. (Etc., etc.) After a few minutes of talking, he told me that the reason for the call was that they were doing a mandatory upgrade of all their websites to HTML5, which would allow the site to be easily integrated with devices of any kind, including computers, tablets, mobile phones, etc. Since this was one of our concerns, I was pleased to hear this. He went on for several minutes explaining all the changes that would be made, and even directed me to a short video on YouTube to watch to further explain.
I was happy about this, but then there came a point when he kept mentioning the 'extras' he would include in the upgrade and it dawned on me – this change wouldn't be done without an additional charge to our monthly fee. More and more it began to sound like a sales pitch.
From the beginning of the conversation, I had told them that my partner wasn't available, but would be in an hour or so and that they should talk to him. He does most of the website layout and maintenance and knows far more about coding and the mechanics of the site than I do. He kept saying that since my name is on the site, that I would have to hear the 'speal' anyway, so he kept moving ahead in his pitch.
I am trying to keep this short, so I will skip ahead to when I finally got to the point of asking him how much it would cost. I was beginning to feel that the reason for the call was to pad me because they were going to raise their monthly hosting fee. I asked him point blank how much it would cost me and he hesitated and finally spit out the number – $3,900.
I almost died! I told him there was no way I would or could pay that now. On top of that, he was telling me that they had tried to contact me for weeks and now they were down to a two week window when all of this had to be done. They were under a deadline and had to move fast.
My head was spinning. I kept telling him that there was no way I was going to pay this amount. I asked them how they could do this to their customers of so many years. He kept apologizing but maintained that my name must have just 'slipped through the cracks' and they wanted to 'help' me figure this out. He then offered to talk to their "financial manager" and put me on hold. You can imagine I was sick to my stomach at the thought of being forced to do this without much notice. I knew Keith would be upset as well and the thought of moving our site to another host within two weeks made me ill.
When he came back on the line, he said he 'negotiated' the price with the financial manager and the knocked off about $1000. It was still out of the question and I told him that. I also told him I wouldn't make any decisions without talking to my partner. He kept stressing the urgency of 'lining up the programmers' and wanted me to pay at least part of the fee immediately. I said "no" over and over.
As a final attempt at getting me to pay, he put me on hold and had me speak to the 'financial manager' guy. This guy started off by asking me a bunch of questions – Was I a Veteran? Was I single or married? Did I have children? He said that these all could help 'lower' the rate. By the time that he was done with these questions, he was "happy" to tell me that they got the fee down to about $2000. Half of the original cost. He kept telling me that I could put it on a credit card, and even asked what my limit was. Of course, I didn't tell him. I was getting more and more annoyed with him as we spoke.
I still refused to pay until I spoke with Keith. I told him I would call back. We had been contemplating moving our site for the above mentioned reasons anyway, but it would be an enormous task and we haven't made the jump. Perhaps this would be the time.
The final thing he said to me was "Well – you know we own your Domain Name – Sheila Landry Designs dot com?" as if he were threatening me. Since I purchased my name myself, I began to know that something wasn't right. I ended the conversation there and took his number and name.
To make a long story short(er), when Keith came home I was pretty upset. I was angry with the company for their 'scare tactics' and I was contemplating calling someone higher up in it to give them a piece of my mind. I didn't want to do anything until I spoke with Keith however and we had a plan. If need be, we could move the site and after them threatening to pull my domain name, I realized that I never wanted to do business with a company that would use such tactics. I was angry and upset and pretty darn mad.
Keith's reaction to the story was pretty much the same as mine. I showed him the video they had me watch and we began discussing our options. When I told him that they had insinuated that they would hold my domain name hostage, Keith began calling them back. Although he didn't use the number they had given us, we used the number that we had in our records for the home office.
Upon calling, Keith learned that this was indeed a SCAM and that our hosts had nothing to do with these two people. He said the rep told him that this happened several weeks ago and several clients had called them – much as we did – and that they called the police to investigate. The complaints seemed to stop and our hosts thought all was well again. But now it seems that they are calling clients again and trying to obtain their credit card information through these tactics.
I was SO RELIEVED that I followed my instincts and didn't give out any information! I was SO GRATEFUL that I had my head together and waited to discuss things with my partner first!
As a final note I want to tell you that these guys had the guts to CALL BACK after the hour or so that I told them that Keith would return and they tried to get him to comply. When they called and asked for him, I handed him the phone and he promptly told them where they could go. Even after that, the guy still tried to keep up the ruse, saying he was just trying to 'help' us. Unbelievable!
I have been on the internet a long, long time. I am here all day, every day, conducting business and using it to its full capabilities. I consider myself smart regarding "safety" and I take many precautions to ensure that my information is protected and not misused. But I have to hand it to these guys – they had me going for a bit. Their attack was somewhat plausible and while after thinking about it for a bit I realize that a reputable company like the one that hosts our site would never do that, they had me thinking that it was just a blip that I wasn't contacted earlier and had to move quickly. The thought of what they were doing is just downright scary.
I tell you all this long, long story because I want you to know "They are out there." I try to look at people through kind eyes, and one of my biggest downfalls is that I think most people think like I do. But sometimes I forget how evil and selfish and uncaring these people could be.
Could you imagine what would have happened if I would have given my credit card information? They would have had a field day.
This is my reminder to never, never, NEVER give your information to anyone who calls you. No matter who they say they are. No legitimate company would call you up and ask for payment/money/financial information. They may know a bit about you because your information is available online somewhere (as mine is) and they will use that and spin stories that will make you forget your safety rules and lower your guard. They may try to convince you that if you don't act NOW, you will come to some sort of bigger problem. Don't allow it to work for them. Hang up and check it out. Legitimate companies do not use those tactics. We just have to remember that.
I feel very relieved, but also still a bit shaky about it. I was amazed at the lengths they went to so they would appear to be legitimate – all the way up to sharing the video on what they were doing. Looking back, I see how many could have fallen for it. What a shame.
I hope you read this to the end and think of it if something like this ever happens to you. The scam artists are getting more clever by the day, and we have to learn to be leary of just about everyone. It is just the way of our world.
I wish you all a wonderful Friday. I plan some great things over the weekend and I am happy to feel back on track. :)
Have a good one!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"