That was not fun. In fact yesterday was one of the most difficult and trying days I’ve had in a long while.
First a text from my email provider saying there had been unauthorised access to my account and they’d blocked it. While I embarked on the long and ridiculously complex process of trying to get myself back into it, there was a phone call from my son, telling me he’d had a suspicious-looking email, claiming to be from me, and asking for ‘a favour’. He said he feared I’d been hacked. That was the opening of the floodgates.
Messages came through on every social media platform from anxious, concerned friends, family members and contacts I hadn’t seen or thought about in years. What was wrong? they asked. Did I need help? What had happened? People I barely remembered were sending sweet messages of care and support and I was having to thank each of them in turn for their warm wishes and concern, then tell them that it was a scam, that if they responded to the bogus email, someone pretending to be me would try to relieve them of large sums of money.
In between all that, I was frantically trying to prioritise who to call next and warn about the scam – friends with autistic perception, elderly friends and relatives, those who didn’t have English as their first language, people in other countries… Anyone, in fact, who might not know me well enough or read the situation clearly enough to realise that I would NEVER email them and ask for money.
It took all morning to regain my email connection. It was only achieved with the caring and patient help of a lovely Scottish BT engineer who guided me gently through the process and interspersed each set of instructions with something like, “I’ve got everything crossed for ye Jan. We’re gonnae do this!”
Once I was able to view my contacts list (not easy – the virus scan I’d had to run had wiped every cookie from my laptop) the size of the task really hit me.
By lunchtime, the stream of confused enquiries and people thoughtfully calling to tell me I’d been hacked had become an avalanche. From Seattle to New York, from the cottage behind mine to Switzerland they came, and each, once they understood the situation, offered commiserations, friendship and little messages about how they and their families were getting on. I learned how former pupils were faring at college and university, heard from forgotten friends and those I hadn’t spoken to in far too long.
Sadly, my warning came too late for at least one dear friend. They had already sent the money off. I was heartbroken. And yet even this person, after ruefully commenting that they’d waved goodbye to 200 dollars, still took time to update me on their news and wish me well.
So yes, my stress levels were through the roof, my day had been ruined and I went to bed hurt and sad, yet I was strangely uplifted by the waves of kindness and consideration from friends and virtual strangers alike. There are some unkind people preying off others in cruel ways in this world, but the vast majority of humanity is kind, caring and generous.
Abject apologies if you were stung by this or a similar hoax and huge thanks if you were one of the people who helped me through that day.
One of the things I do when receiving a suspicious email is click on the name so I can see the full email address of the sender. I just checked my email and sure enough, there was one from “you” but it was actually from firstname.lastname@example.org. I blocked them. And yes, how lovely to hear from so many people – a sweet reminder of just a handful of people you’ve touched.
Very glad it didn’t catch you. I’ve reported the sender.