In her home office in February last year, with a sparrow’s nest outside her window and chipmunk figurines on bookshelves behind her, Sharples sat stumped by the Spelling Bee word game on her screen.

She was checking another website for hints, hunting for words to help solve the puzzle, when her computer froze. A giant red sign filled her screen, along with a warning and instructions: Her identity had been stolen. She needed to protect herself by calling Microsoft at the 800 number provided