Scammers prey on veterans, exploiting their trust and goodwill, often striking when they are most vulnerable.
That’s what happened to John McKendrick, 80, of West Palm Beach, Florida, a retired Navy lieutenant commander and veteran of 20 years who lost his life savings. Now, he wants to warn other veterans.
McKendrick was grieving the death of his wife of 46 years and preparing to go to England for her funeral when the scammer struck. He was, as he puts it, “not in a good frame of mind” when he noticed an odd charge for “Norton” on his credit card statement.
His bank advised calling Norton Security, so he Googled the company and found a phone number. The “customer service representative” asked McKendrick to click a link that would allow him remote control of the computer to check for the Norton software.
“Against my better judgment, I allowed him to do this,” McKendrick told AARP Veteran Report. “Once on my computer, he verified that I did not have Norton Security installed. But he did report that during his inspection, he had found at least 28 active hackers on my computer.”
At this point, McKendrick, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and a member of the class of 1966, didn’t realize there was only one hacker inside his machine: the man he was speaking to on the phone.
According to Troy Broussard, senior adviser to the AARP Veterans and Military Families Initiative, enabling a hacker to infiltrate your computer is a turning point: “Giving any type of control to a potential scammer can lead to escalated losses. It is so easy to do. Many years ago, I experienced this myself when a scammer was about to take over my computer, but I realized it at the last moment.”
Once the scammer has control, the result can be devastating. That is exactly what happened to McKendrick next. The man said Norton was working with the FBI and other federal agencies to catch hackers and that McKendrick could help them.