Friday, September 17, 2010

Identity thieves target Charlotte woman

My friend and co-worker, Marion Paynter, had the misfortune recently of becoming the target of one of the most vexing crimes of the digital age: identity theft. More specifically, the old I'm-stuck-in-Europe-please-wire-money trick the scammers love. Marion learned back in July that her G-mail account had been hacked, and this message had been sent out to all her contacts:

Hi,

I'm writing this with tears in my eyes,my family and I came down here to North England, United Kingdom for a short vacation. unfortunately,we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed,all cash and credit card were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us.

We've been to the Embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in few hours from now but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills. Well I really need your financially assistance..Please, let me know if you can help us out?

Am freaked out at the moment!!

Marion Paynter…


One of her friends responded to the hacker, and he asked her to wire $1,600 to a specific account. But she, like Marion's other friends, didn't fall for it. (Interestingly, she notes, the hacker sent that message from a separate Yahoo account he'd set up in Marion's name). He'd also changed her G-mail account's password, her secret question and her secondary e-mail account she'd used to set up the account. So, she couldn't get into the account, and it took her days of work to get Google to recognize she was indeed Marion Paynter and not a hacker herself.

Almost four weeks after the hacker attacked, Google finally sent her an alert saying "suspicious activity" had been noticed on her account. Google said the attack originated in Nigeria. To this day, she says, she still doesn't know how the hacker got into her account. Her advice: change your password regularly and make sure it's secure. (Click here to get a Google engineer's advice on dealing with this common scam).

What about you? Have you had any close encounters with identity thieves? Any tips to share about how to stay safe?

6 comments:

J said...

I received the exact same email "from" a fellow member of a professional association. I knew it was a hacker because I had seen this person at a conference a couple weeks earlier and she didn't say anything about going to Europe. I also could tell by the syntax of the message that this was not from who it said it was from. So I just deleted the email.

Last week, a bunch of people in my office got emails with no text in the body other than a hyperlink. A number of people foolishly clicked on it and these bogus emails started multiplying like rabbits.

You just have to pay very good attention. An email from a friend asking for money? Read the message carefully. Is this how your friend "talks?" Remember the countless accounts you have heard about people getting robbed or identity stolen from emails asking for money. Got an email from a "friend" with a hyperlink or attachment in it? Study the link - what website is it taking you to? Are you sure it's a trusted, secure site? Were you expecting a link or file from this person? If not, be suspicious.

It all comes down to being vigilant.

Anonymous said...

I got the exact same email from a friend. I picked up the phone and called him. Sure enough, he was sitting on his couch watching a football game. Needless to say, he thought I was nuts. I do have to say - for a second there, I thought it was true.

Anonymous said...

Same thing happened to my mother and we got so many calls, emails about it. She was told that Facebook was to blame but it happened in her Gmail account. The person (from Nigeria) changed her password and deleted all her contacts. It's scary...this is what we are dealing with.

Anonymous said...

I posted a house for rent on Craigslist. A hacker used that posting and reposted it as their own claiming they had the house for rent for less than my original post and that they could not show the house because they were out of the country. If someone wanted to see the house they had to wire $500 so that they can get the key. Needless to say, we had so many people show up at the house to make sure it was real because they thought it was a scam. I called the FBI and Craigslist (who didnt address the issue) and replaced my posting with a scam posting. It took about 4 months for it to finally go away.

Kingward said...

People who exploit the kindness of others for sordid gain are not fit to live.

AnnoyingJoe said...

Shitty Grammer = Nigerian scammer