“Help! I’m in Luxembourg attending a conference and I’ve been robbed, even my passport has been taken. Please help!”
“Yeah, right” I laughed as I scooted the cursor to the delete button. Well hold on. Macon is a professional photographer and he’s travelled extensively. I reread the email. Luxembourg, conference, robbed, passport, help. Well maybe this isn’t a joke. It’s not like he’s asking for a credit card or a bank routing number. So if he’s really in trouble why hasn’t he just gone to the embassy? Perhaps he has a copy of the passport at the house and he needs a photocopy? Hhhmmm. Even though it was 7:20 on a Saturday morning I figured a phone call wouldn’t hurt, just to make sure. After all, if his email was hacked, everyone in his database got this email and he’s probably awake from all the phone calls he’s getting. But he’s probably been hacked.
“Macon? Uh, are you in Luxembourg?”
Of course it was a hack. And a few days later we got a similar email from someone supposedly in the Philippines and they were asking for 1,500 British pounds. How does this happen? Unfortunately there’s no easy answer but there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. The first is to exercise vigilance, especially when you’re on a public Wi-Fi such as Starbuck’s. When on a public Wi-Fi, pretend that everyone in the area is reading over your shoulder. What would you want them to see? Certainly not your mail, your bank account number or your personal photographs so keep off of anything personal while on a hot spot because it’s all vulnerable. In Macon’s case he’s lucky that it was merely a prank email that was distributed because it could have been much worse. Change your passwords every three months, protect your personal information and for Pete’s sake, if someone emails you a link and says “Ya gotta see this!” Chances are, you probably don’t.