Q. I’ve been scammed by a hacker.
I’m a middle-aged 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 e-mail 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 A HACKER
A. 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 cyber-crimes, 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.
Q. My husband passed away two months ago, and I have slowly found out things he has 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?
A. 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.
Q. I thought your advice to “Worried” 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.
A. I hope you warn your spouse.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.