For starters, I am not in London -- as a bogus email to my many Internet friends now claims -- but please know I am literally and figuratively "hacked" right now. Some of the world's greatest jerks just demolished my email account. That's right -- sometime Monday night some viral hoodlums ransacked my life by not only sending a bogus email to everybody on my email account but also by deleting thousands of emails I had saved on my "firstname.lastname@example.org" address.
The email, appearing like it had come from me, pleads that I am stranded in London and to please send money so I can return to my loved ones. Oh, please! I must have gotten over 50 phone calls, hundreds of emails during the day on Tuesday and, trust me, it is totally false.
I'm mad, embarrassed, and helpless and have no idea what I am going to do if one of my pals sends the scammers any money -- Lord help me!
Here's what the charming missive to anyone on my address book said:
* * *
"I'm in a very terrible situation, I came down to London with my family for a short vacation trip unfortunately we were robbed at gun point last night, All cash, including credit card and cell phone was stolen away. I've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all, Return flight leaves later today and am having problems settling my bills. I was wondering if you can loan me $1,500 to pay up the bills and also take a cab to the airport.
"I'll refund it to you as soon as I arrive home just need to clear my bills. As soon as I get home I'll refund it immediately. Write me so I can let you know how to send it."
* * *
As I pray the thirsty fleas of 10,000 camels will descend with great vigor on those involved, I've little choice but to endure the storm. The first thing I did was change every password on every account I have. Today's tip: change your passwords so this won't happen to you.
For the record I am assured I can keep the primary address -- "email@example.com" -- but urge everyone who might have gotten a sniff of this parasite to -- please -- do not, under any circumstances, follow the hacker's instructions and reply to "firstname.lastname@example.org" That is where the hackers have created a bogus reply and -- yes -- host Microsoft is well aware of the hoax.
Believe it or not I've gotten similar emails in the last several years along the same vein. The jerks have picked on people I know and I have just laughed at such a ridiculous prank. But it isn't funny at all when it happens to me and, while I appreciate the number of calls from friends to alert me of my newest calamity, I have no choice but to hope it goes away in a hurry.
I created a new address -- email@example.com -- placing a crafty dot, or "period" between my first and last name -- but I am told the change in the password will thwart the slimy crooks and my email will once again be secure. I'll now check my "dot" address, too, if people think my old moniker is tainted or compromised.
While I feel I hardly need to apologize as the "victim," I regret the consternation the hackers have caused and deeply appreciate all of those who have called and written to alert me that I have been beset by jackals. I hope this will be a positive reminder to never open emails from those you don't know, never -- ever -- give out your pass codes, your Social Security number or any personal information to anybody and -- for goodness sake -- please know that there isn't some Christian woman in Sri Lanka who is dying of stage 4 cancer who wants you to have 3.7 million pounds sterling.
Gosh, the whole thing makes me want to take a hot shower. What a Valentine's treat! Please be careful on the Internet.