I opened my email and had one message from someone I know very well, a female colleague in her sixties. The message asked me to send her money as she was on holiday and it revealed someone had stolen her money and her phone and having had her holiday ruined, she wanted to come home straight away but needed money to do so. Fortunately I was able to call this person and as well as checking she was alright, advise her to quickly change her email password and run a full virus check on her computer, as it was clear her email account had been hacked.
As email scams go it was one of the more believable ones. It contained no link to buy cheap pills online, nor did it advise me of a large inheritance that I could obtain a healthy percentage of in return for assisting moving the funds. It is often difficult to tell whether emails are genuine, particularly if someone is asking for help. A simple rule of thumb is, when the email gives you an excuse about why you cannot call the sender and/or urges immediate action without delay, you should do a bit of checking and you should never send money directly through a link provided in the email.
These problems are usually unsophisticated hacks where the Trojan or virus sends emails to your contact list. Almost all of the time they will ask for money or send links to products, unfortunately often of an explicit nature. These hacks are frustrating, intrusive and can cause offence, they are certainly one of the downsides of being online. However, a full scan with your anti-virus software and a password change usually sees things return to normal.
Patricia Greensmith, who runs the Willington-based Chyrelle Addams Cancer Support Trust and sings under her stage name Chyrelle Adams, recently went to the press after her email was hacked and her large contact list received the email I refer to above asking for help as she was supposedly stranded overseas. As Mrs Greensmith is a well-known and trusted charity fundraiser, she was concerned her supporters and donors would react to this erroneous call to action.
This goes to show that you need to be vigilant and it is the kind and trusting among you who are most at risk of sending money and getting scammed. Regular virus scans on your computer and medium term password changes reduce the chances of this happening to you, particularly if you have a well-known website or are well-known online.