A woman called Dell tech support because she was having trouble locating nude photos of herself on her computer, which is weird to begin with, but that’s just the beginning of the most bizarre and unbelievable customer-tech support saga you’ll ever find.
So last year, Tara Fitzgerald called into Dell supposedly because she had nude photos of herself that she wanted to send to her boyfriend. She was connected to 22-year-old Riyaz Shaikh, who probably said his name was “John” when Fitzgerald first called in, based in Mumbai.
Fitzgerald granted Shaikh access to remotely tap into her computer, and they were able to retrieve the photos, which mysteriously didn’t seem that difficult to find. The photos came up right on the screen for Fitzgerald – and Skaikh – to see.
A few weeks later, Fitzgerald says she received an anonymous e-mail from someone stating they found an entire website called “About Tara” that displayed nothing but the nude photos the Dell technician helped her find. Text at the header of the site says Tara is a “hot upcoming b*tch from California” and “she motivated us to create this website.”
“I’ve been violated. My life’s been violated,” she said in an interview with ABC News, which picked up the story after Fitzgerald finally went to the media with this whole ordeal.
However, it gets even weirder. Apparently Fitzgerald and Shaikh struck a chord together, and she got back in touch with him when she discovered the website. Shaikh told her that she needed to buy a brand new laptop from Dell.com and send it overnight to his address in Mumbai. She complied. Okay, seriously, what the hell?
Apparently the website became the least of Fitzgerald’s concerns as she and Shaikh began something of an online romance. The two exchanged hours of instant messages that went way beyond asking how to fix a broken joystick (if you get my drift).
“He’s very charming. Very charming. He knew exactly what to say. And it warmed my heart. I fell for it. Totally,” said Fitzgerald to ABC News.
Okay, now while you’re still trying to wrap your head around all of this, prepare yourself – the story gets even weirder.
About a month after she purchased Shaikh’s brand new laptop, Fitzgerald found an unauthorized purchase of $800 for another computer shipped to a woman in Tennessee, one Kirstin Landers. And yep, you guessed it – after a police investigation, they traced the purchase back to… Riyaz Shaikh.
According to Fitzgerald, Shaikh admitted he stole her identity to make the purchase, and the woman, Kirstin Landers, was another Dell tech support customer and the two of them were now in a similar online fling. Damn, this guy must be a lot smoother over the phone than any of the tech support people I’ve ever called.
Anyway, this whole thing looks suspect from the beginning. The nature of her original call and the fact that she basically overnighted a computer as a gift kind of shows that Fitzgerald was probably looking to get something “extra” out of her call in the first place. However, the fraud committed on her account is inexcusable, and the best Dell has offered is to remove the charge from her account with no admission of guilt.
It’s unlikely any criminal charges will be brought against the tech support guy because he lives in India and won’t be extradited for a minor offense like this.
Dell said in a statement that Shaikh no longer works for its outsourced technical support company.