Tuesday afternoon, I picked up my Google Pixel 5 phone to call Josh, and the screen said “Locked.” I’ve never put a password or pin on this phone since I bought it back in November of 2020.

“Oh, well,” I thought, “If I don’t get in tonight, I’ll call Verizon in the morning. They’ll have me back in quickly. I need this phone working. It runs my life.”

Boy, was I wrong!

The next morning when I called the number I had for Verizon support, I got a young lady who told me that she couldn’t do anything. I’d have to call Google. She gave me a website where I could go to do it myself. I went there and followed the instructions for a long time to no avail. Instructions on the phone sent me in circles.

“Put in your last password.”

I did.

“Wrong password,” it scolded. “Use your Google account instead.”

I went there.

“Put in your last password.”

“Wrong Password!”

This went on until my last grain of patience was gone. I stomped to my car and drove to the local Verizon store downtown and waited and waited and waited. Finally, closing time came and I left. I returned the next morning and waited again about one-and-a-half hours. When it was finally my turn, the young lady said there was nothing she could do and gave me a number to call. When I called that number, my troubles really started.

The person who answered had a slight foreign accent, but that’s not uncommon at all. Most of the time when I call someone for technical support, I get someone with a foreign accent. I trusted him because I’d gotten the number from the Verizon store. He spoke kindly and jovially, talking to me about the problem on my phone and what he would do about it. I gave him no passwords, no security information—just my phone number and my pin for the account. He did ask me if I could reach my email other than with my phone so he could send me a security code. Of course, I do. Hence, my computer became involved. The next thing I knew he was talking to me via my computer and the phone, even though it was still locked.

The thing that cinched it was that he sold me a warranty and support package for $300. He said I could call him directly any time I had a problem. He had asked $500 at first, and I told him no. But I was desperate and frustrated, filled with emotions that make one vulnerable. As soon as I gave him the credit card information, I had second thoughts. Larry and I talked about it and realized I’d been had. I shut down the computer and the phone, even though the phone wasn’t working anyway.

I called my credit card company first. She said they’d been just about to call me to ask if I’d made that purchase. We stopped that before it even went through and canceled the card. They’re sending me a new one. Ten days, maybe.

Then I called the bank, and we dashed up town to handle the paperwork to head off that problem. We closed our accounts, opened new ones, and transferred our money. Much more than that was involved, but the bank took care of transferring checks that came direct deposit to those accounts and bills that were set to pay by draft. We had to change debit cards and checks, those old- fashioned things I hardly use anymore. I may start again.

Back home when I could turn back to the phone problem, I called another Verizon number I found online, but now I don’t trust anyone on the phone or online. And I’m having to use Larry’s phone. Mine is not working, remember? I spent another fruitless night and afternoon trying to open my phone, sometimes with online help, if you can call it that, sometimes alone. I finally figured out that my Google account had been hacked. I’ve no idea how. I’m ignorant about the hacking world and that’s one reason some hacker was able to get me. He recognized my ignorance. So did I. I always thought I was pretty savvy about such things, but I was so wrong.

This morning I was ready to give up and buy a cheap phone to get me by. I chatted with a person on the Verizon sales site, and he sent me to Rachel, who was wonderful. In 30 minutes, she had my phone restored including most of my data, even though we had done a factory reset. She was a real technician and the one that I’d needed on day one. She could have saved me a lot of trouble and stress. Think about how much we depend on our phones. Anyway, I was most grateful to her and most annoyed that Verizon and Google don’t have more accessible support phone numbers. Google doesn’t even have a number to call them. It’s easy to find them if you want to buy something though.

Be careful, and as my friend Sonia says, “Don’t trust anybody!” Certainly not on the internet. I learned some hard lessons via this experience.