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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Media (in any form) (11/11/10)

TITLE: Lost Purse, Passport, Hackers An Ongoing E-Mail Nightmare
By Marijo Phelps
11/15/10


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I got an e-mail from a writer friend who was saying since her hubby updated their search engine they’d had increasing problems with their computer. She mentioned that her e-mail account provider had written stating there were problems. They wanted to verify her account information.

I was writing her back commiserating with her when Outlook binged and I had another e-mail with her address on it. This one said she’d had to take a sudden trip to the UK, her purse had been stolen along with her passport and could I please wire her $2,500 so she could get things taken care of then come home. I knew she wasn’t in the UK.

Having heard about this scam before, I knew that e-mail was not from her but from a hacker. I was going to e-mail and warn her but realized the hacker would see it and she might not.

Thankfully, she and I had met each other “face to face” and I had her phone number in my address book. Placing a quick call I told her that I thought she’d been hacked. She told me that her e-mail inbox had letters in it including one from their bank, with all their banking information and all those inbox letters were gone from the inbox. She had not touched those letters.

“I will let you off the phone right away you need to call your bank and tell them not to allow any money to be taken out of your account! And you should call anyone else whose information might be on your computer just in case.”

“Oh, my, this is a nightmare. If I call now I can reach the bank just before they close!”

“Keep me posted, I’ll be praying!”

After we hung up I sent an e-mail to everyone on both of my address lists explaining what happened and warning them about this scam. Several wrote back to say it had happened to them or a friend, one even had a relative who wired the $2500 not realizing it was going into the hands of hackers.

Two days have passed and my friend has had a computer person trying to fix the computer all this time. She and her husband still can’t use their computer or e-mail. Part of the problem is that they can’t recall what answers they put in to the security questions. You remember those. Who was your favorite teacher? What is your pet’s name? Who was your favorite aunt twice removed by marriage.

We have so many passwords and accounts now days. It is not wise to use the same password for all accounts for obvious reasons, yet it is helpful for your recall until you get hacked.

Sure you wrote all your passwords down ….. they are stacked about 3 inches deep in a drawer. Then the password is changed and you don’t find the old one but keep moving on. You only find the old one when you need the current one and then it doesn’t work. I am sure many can relate to this.

I now place my password and date the paper placing it in the drawer, but it is still in the drawer. I don’t think I have ever written down the security questions. Then someone will ask you for that information. What is your pet’s name, being cat woman that one would get tricky.

What did my friend and I learn from all of this? Your e-mail provider will never, ever ask for your password except on their site when you want to change the password. When they write you they will call you by name and not just say something like “dear hotmail customer”.

A good thing to remember is to go to their link and not use the link supplied in an e-mail. Yes, hackers can give you a link which looks real, but is actually one the hacker set up to reel you in.
Caution is the by word. Always double check before giving out any information and never, ever give out your password.
Too bad these hackers couldn’t use their brilliant minds to make something helpful to the internet user but I guess being helpful is not in their vocabulary.


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Member Comments
Member Date
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/20/10
You give some really useful advice. Actually some of the government's best computer techs were at one time hackers who were rehabilitated. Although I'm not sure if you really hit the topic you presented a well written useful essay. Keep up the good work.
Joanne Sher 11/21/10
As Shann said, I'm not certain this is on topic, but it is without a doubt excellent information we all need to keep in mind. Thanks for sharing.
Troy Manning11/21/10
Thank you for the warning! As the topic is media "in any form," I personally think the subject of e-mail scams qualifies.
Lollie Hofer 11/22/10
I received one of these emails from a friend who had her purse stolen in Peru. The only catch...I had just seen my "real" friend in a church about two hours before receiving the email. Thanks for the heads up. It will educate a lot of people this week.