What is a computer scam call? A cyber crime.

If you didn’t initiate the call, it is a scam call.


"Til It Happens to You" is a song produced and performed by American singer Lady Gaga. (The YouTube below is Live From The 88th Annual Academy Awards). She co-wrote the song with Diane Warren. This is a universal song about any kind of loss in life.

A computer scam call is cyber abuse that can result in loss.
— Tech Tip Carol

Tech Tip Carol related this story to Mason PI. I hope it will help others realize the potential for cyber scams and what to do if it happens to you or someone you care about.

Evelyn, a former Intelligence officer during WWII and teacher of the arts, now 90, lives in Washington, DC. She is a socialite and graduate of a prestigious college. Her manners are impeccable — polite and measured. She embraced working on a computer to do her letters and email. She prided herself on being a participant of the technical world and staying abreast of the times.

One day while at her desk, she received a phone call. She was contacted by a man who asked her what kind of computer she used. She replied, Apple. He then identified himself as working for Apple to address malware that had gotten into the system and needed to be corrected.

Her manners and lack of knowledge about computer issues caused her to stay on the phone and talk with him. She began to do as he asked which ultimately was to allow him to have access to her computer and download his software which was malware. He asked her to keep her computer up and running until he called back. She agreed and hung up, bewildered.

Meanwhile, her home health aide, Sally, a young woman who is far more computer savvy, witnessed this conversation and outcome. Sally called Tech Tip Carol right away. Tech Tip Carol asked to speak with Evelyn and explained a terrible breach of her privacy had just occurred on her computer. On Tech Tip Carol’s advise and Evelyn’s ok, Sally shut down the computer.

You see, by giving access to the computer, the man who called could copy all Evelyn's files from her computer to his. She had sensitive files and banking files. He needed the computer to be running (online) in order to make the copy of the files which can take a bit of time. By turning off her computer, the copying of files ceased. (BTW, the man never called back.)

The immediate first steps were to place calls to banks, credit card companies, people involved with trusts, brokerage firms, and the financial registered representative. It was outside business hours but they had the personal numbers for these individuals and place the calls instead of waiting for normal business hours. Then this incident was reported to the police - but they don’t have a protocol to address cyber crime.

This aftermath took the better part of the following day alongside a family member who had flown in to help.

Tech Tip Carol powered on the computer and kept it offline. She checked the computer and the downloaded software was verified - this type of malicious file cannot be removed. The possibility of the man having access to her computer again, if the computer was brought back online, was a very real possibility. Unfortunately, Evelyn would not be able to work on this computer again.

It was agreed, Evelyn needed to have a new computer. However, the exact same operating system was not available on the new computer. That also meant the software for letters was an updated version or different as well. Training for this new environment was needed.

This new computer environment combined with Evelyn’s distress resulted in never successfully returning to her accomplished computer experience. A very sad situation to witness.

Till it happens to you, or someone you care about, it really doesn’t ring home what a violation a computer phone scam is. We must educate ourselves to prevent it.

If you get this kind of call, remember...

If you didn’t initiate the computer help call, it is a scam, hang up.”
— Tech Tip Carol

Six Things To Do AFTER You Have Been Scammed


Remember that time is of the essence.

Between my years in law enforcement and the experience I had responding to a scam in my family, I have prepared a template for the response I made when my family was confronted with this crime.

  • You may think your scam doesn't merit any follow up
  • You may be embarrassed to admit you fell victim to a scam thinking that, with hindsight, you should have been able to detect.  
  • It happened in my family where a bad guy posing as a police officer told a family member that my daughter had run a red light, sustained serious injuries when she crashed her car as a result of running the red light, caused a great deal of property damage to a residence, and was currently in jail. 
  • The imposter continued to say that the residential property owner requested several thousand dollars before he would allow my daughter to be released from jail. 
  • This began a series of thefts because the bad guys attempt these scams all day every day until they find someone who believes their story.  Try to get past these reservations.

I feel that scams of all sizes should be reported for four reasons:

  • Prosecution of the perpetrator
  • Deterrence
  • The information you provide may bolster an ongoing police investigation
  • Statistics

1. Once you are aware of the suspicious activity, contact the police to file a report.
The police will give you guidance on how to proceed.

2. Try to get a handle immediately on what happened and start contacting financial institutions to block accounts.
With MoneyPak card scams, call PayPal. They helped me immensely when a family member was scammed. 

3. Prepare a detailed report of the events.
Do this right away while all the details are fresh in your mind. Don't omit a single detail. No matter how insignificant it may seem, it may be important later. Include photocopies of supporting documentation with your report. This includes anything you collect along the way. It might be a check, a phone record, an email, a text, a MoneyPak card, a financial statement, and on and on.  We were able to recover some of the money scammed from my family member which involved a MoneyPak scam.  MoneyPak is like a prepaid card you can get at stores like CVS and RiteAid.  You take cash to the store and buy a MoneyPak card which looks just like a credit card.  You can then transfer the money from your card to a PayPal account which then you can use like cash and can be accessed anywhere in the world.   Thankfully, MoneyPak imposes daily limits on the redemption of MoneyPak cards. PayPal helped us tremendously to recoup the money on cards that hadn't been redeemed yet because of the daily limit. By the way, I contacted PayPal the day of the scam which is the only reason there was still money on the cards for us to recover.  The police were amazed that we were able to get any money back.

4.  File the written report of events with the police.
This can supplement the original police report if you have already contacted the police. The police will be forever grateful if you hand them the report of events you wrote. This will save them precious time taking copious notes and writing a lengthy intake report.  Even if the police tell you they can’t open an investigation, you can let them know you felt it was your civic responsibility to report it. You know the police are required to report these incidents for the sake of statistics and you know the police would appreciate knowing if a bad guy under investigation had committed another crime.  You can also formally request that a criminal investigation be conducted or speak with the prosecutor's office in the jurisdiction of the crime to discuss the pursuit of criminal charges in your case. Make sure you get the name and number of the police point of contact so you can get an update on their progress.

5. Get additional resources involved.
The police may not be able to accept your case for investigation for numerous reasons.  Sometimes it is because they are bombarded by these scams and sometimes it is based on investigative priorities. If the police can't accept your case for prosecution, go public!  Send your report of events to all of your Senators, Congressmen, and members of the State Legislature.  Send it to the President, the Mayor, local politicians, and all of the centers that cater to vulnerable individuals, such as senior centers. 

Click here.  This is an excellent link for the names and contact information of your elected officials.  The search is by zip code and the results include federal, state, and local officials.

6. Retrace your steps.  
If you haven't already done so, go to the banks, stores, or other entities that were involved and let them know what happened. The information may put them on alert to increase security in this area.  In my case, I spoke with the managers of the stores and banks involved.  Their personnel followed the protocols in place at the time, but, if they hear enough stories of their customers being scammed, they may do more to deter these crimes from occurring.  If a company has clearly been negligent in allowing a scam to take place, consider contacting the consumer fraud agencies, the Better Business Bureau, or the Chamber of Commerce. 

Ask for help with this process if you need it. Always keep in mind not to put yourself in harm's way. 

Remember that time is of the essence.

The sooner you react, the higher the chance for a successful outcome.  


The Sixth Amendment and Jury Duty

Jury Duty - How do you feel about being called?

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, . . . .
— an excerpt from the Sixth Amendment

I have always loved being called for Jury Duty.

The process is fascinating and the experience exhilarating. 

For years, I was in a loop and was called frequently for State Jury Duty.  Only once did I make it from the Jury pool room to the courtroom of a criminal trial.  Any hopes I had of being selected for this trial were eliminated when we, the prospective jurors, were told about the case - a drug deal involving a sale of cocaine to an undercover police officer. 

When the judge got to me, I told him I did not think I could be impartial!  That was an understatement: I was sure I could not be impartial.  That was the last time I made it to the courtroom for Jury Duty.

Watching the Steven Avery series recently got me refocused on our Constitutional right to due process. 

Perhaps you'll look forward to the next notice of Jury Duty you receive in the mail and to the contribution you can make to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America in this critical way.  I know I will.


TEMPTATION - a powerful lure for crime

Hi everyone,
Jane Mason, CFI of Mason PI here... with the next segment from the Fraud Blog.

There are some people who have criminal minds. 

This type of person may plot and plan to develop fraudulent schemes. 

Some fundamentally honest people are challenged when they find themselves in a situation that lends itself to crime.  

Elements inherent in this challenge include access and opportunity which then create the age-old problem of temptation...

See: example and TIP


Why Did FBI Director Hire Lenore Houston in 1924 ~
The Only Female FBI Special Agent Ever Hired By Famed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover?


Part 1 of 2

In March of 2015, I had the honor of delivering a presentation to a group of people attending a Ladies’ Tea sponsored by the New Providence, New Jersey Diversity Club in celebration of Women’s History Month.  I chose to write about the first five female FBI Special Agents.  These five women are true female trailblazers in the world of federal law enforcement.  I stopped at five because I needed a finite group of females to highlight and because this number fit well with the timeline of the earliest females in the ranks of Special Agents at the FBI.  This number also made sense to me because of the machinations of legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.  Hoover created the premier federal law enforcement agency in the country, but he was resolute in his views on females as Special Agents. 

The first two female Special Agents, Alaska Donovan and Jesse Duckstein, were hired by Hoover’s predecessor, Director William Burns, in the early 1920’s.  They both retired two weeks after Hoover was appointed FBI Director in 1924.  A mystery occurred in late 1924, when Hoover appointed Lenore Houston as a Special Agent.  She was the first, last, and only female Special Agent Hoover ever hired.  I say this is a mystery because my research has not revealed any reason for Hoover to make this single appointment.  As with Donovan and Duckstein, Hoover asked for and received Lenore’s resignation.  Lenore resigned on November 7, 1928.  It wasn’t until two weeks after Hoover died in 1972, during his 48th year as FBI Director, that females were allowed to apply for the position of Special Agent.  In 1972, the first two female agents to attend New Agent’s Training Class were Susan Lynn Roley, a former U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant and Joanne Pierce, a former nun.

Lenore Houston in 1924.

Lenore Houston in 1924.

Here is a letter Hoover wrote in 1971 in response to a letter the FBI received from Colorado State University accusing the FBI of violating equal employment opportunity regulations by not hiring females as FBI agents.  Because the FBI refused to hire female Special Agents, Colorado State University banned the FBI from recruiting on their campus. 

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 10.23.36 AM.png


Why Did FBI Director Hire Lenore Houston in 1924 ~
The Only Female FBI Special Agent Ever Hired By Famed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover?


Part 2 of 2

What was it about Lenore Houston that caused J Edgar Hoover to hire her as a Special Agent?

J Edgar Hoover

J Edgar Hoover

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.47.00 PM.png

Lenore Houston was born on August 12, 1878 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to Joseph and Esther (née Rakemore) Houston. Joseph was a doctor and Esther was a housewife from a large German family that had been settled in the area since the early 1700’s. Lenore was one of four children and was well-educated having spent three years studying at Swarthmore College. 

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College

Although Lenore came from some degree of privilege, the amount of land her eldest brother inherited was not enough to entice him to stay in Pennsylvania. There is not much information about her middle brother and her youngest brother died when he was a toddler.

Perhaps the source of her recommendations to the position of Special Agent of the FBI holds a clue.

In June of 1922, at the age of 44, Lenore applied for the position of Special Agent. Both Pennsylvania Governor William Cameron Sproul and Beaver County, Pennsylvania District Attorney Louis E. Graham recommended her for this position on several occasions. She was initially hired as a Special Employee of the FBI hired by Director Burns on January 14th of 1924 and was assigned to investigate Mann Act violations (white slave trafficking) violations in the Philadelphia FBI office.

Director William J. Burns

Director William J. Burns

William Cameron Sproul served as the 27th Governor of Pennsylvania from January 21, 1919 to January 16, 1923.  Governor Sproul was born and spent much of his life in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. In addition to the geographical connection, Governor Sproul also attended Swarthmore College, Lenore's alma mater.

William Cameron Sproul

William Cameron Sproul

Louis E. Graham

Louis E. Graham

Louis E. Graham was the District Attorney of Beaver County from 1912 through 1924.  Although District Attorney Graham had no particular connection to Lenore or to Lancaster County, Graham seemed to be the more ardent advocate for Lenore later in her career. Graham continued to recommend Lenore to Hoover until, finally, on November 6, 1924, Hoover changed Lenore’s designation to Special Agent. Lenore's connection with Congressman Graham may be a story that is lost to the sands of time.


Lies don't have details

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 9.25.28 AM.png

Think for a minute about what you did yesterday.  If a friend asks you what you did yesterday, you would easily be able to recount your activities.  You remember many details.  If someone asks a detail about a part of it or asks you to tell your day's events backwards, it's no problem.

Say you went to lunch at Chipotle yesterday with some colleagues from your firm. You have been worried lately that something complicit is happening at your firm.  You don't know exactly what is going on and you want absolutely no part of it.  While you were out with your co-workers, you overheard them talking about their fraudulent behavior.  You were very upset and weren'tsure exactly what to do.  You decided to just pretend you never heard anything at all.  After all, you don't want to be involved.

Say FBI agents visit you at home and ask you about your day yesterday.  You ask why they are asking questions and they only tell you they have a routine investigation ongoing.  You feel immediate stress and guilt by association.  You tell them you want to be as helpful and cooperative as possible.

Then, without even consciously thinking about it, you begin to minimize and fabricate a story about your day.

They ask if you spent time with your colleagues and you tell them, “No, not really.  I might have bumped into a couple of them but didn't really spend any time with them.”  They ask if you know about or suspect anything improper or illegal going on at your firm.  You try to sound shocked saying, “No, of course not.”

They ask you to tell them what you did yesterday.  Uh oh!  Now, you may not know it,  but your pulse is increasing and your brain is going into high gear to make sure you sound truthful.

You say you went out shopping in the morning, then out to lunch, and then home to do some paperwork.  You leave out that the lunch you had was with the colleagues you already said you hadn't really seen yesterday.

You are then asked by the Agents about where you went shopping,  You provide great detail about what stores you went to and what you bought.  Now they ask you about lunch.  Uh oh. Now what?  You have watched enough episodes of CSI to know that they will be able to get surveillance video from the Chipotle where you and your colleagues had lunch.  Despite rationalizing this, you blurt out that you had a quick lunch at McDonald's so you could get to your paperwork.  Clever!

To be continued...

Expert white-collar crime investigator



Jane Mason of Mason PI

Delivers Training in Advanced Interview Techniques.


Jane Mason of Mason PI recently delivered a customized, intensive, and interactive Advanced Interview Techniques training program to 50+ attorneys attending their firm’s offsite retreat held in Chicago, IL.  The client is a full-service law firm with a significant practice in Environmental and Workplace Safety and with more than 600 attorneys in locations across the United States and in London and Shanghai. The client had requested specialized training in interviewing techniques because they felt they could improve the quality of the content derived during interviews by their attorneys as well as the speed of information retrieval. The attorneys who were trained agreed as many acknowledged that they planned to become better listeners and to elicit information more effectively rather than feeding information to potential witnesses. The dynamic training program featured instruction on interview techniques followed by extensive role-playing.

The feedback from trainees was uniform about one thing: they wanted more training on the various nuances of conducting interviews. 

And plans are underway to provide additional content including strategies to effectively communicate with different types of witnesses.


Mason PI provides general and environmental investigative services. Its founder retired from the Federal Bureau Investigation after 28 years as a Special Agent developing expertise in white-collar crime investigations, collection of evidence, and witness interview. Mason PI bring decades of investigative experience, particularly in the field of complex white-collar and environmental investigations. They also specialize in forensic evidence collection, expert witness testimony, and witness interviews. 


To find out more, please visit www.MasonPrivateEye.com or Contact Us.