After further investigation, I learned scammers are out to do more than pick the pockets of unsuspecting individuals; they're out to trash mail systems and hijack Facebook accounts, too.
Last week, I wrote about the "Stranded in London" scam that may use genealogists and others who post their email address on the Internet. Scammers create an almost identical email address as their intended victim, commandeer their victim's address book and send messages to everyone, stating they need money right away to pay their hotel bill. The person who is supposedly stranded in London and robbed of their wallet are unable to pay the bill and are not permitted to catch their flight until it's paid.
My friend who had fallen victim to these scammers reported that she had lost many things: 300 contacts in her address book, all her messages and folders and her Facebook page.
When I learned of this, I contacted my friend whose name had been used in the first scam. Almost the exact thing had happened to her. All her contacts were deleted and the scammers had hacked into her Facebook account. She immediately contacted Facebook and had her account locked. This inactivated her page, so her online friends wouldn't be tricked into sending money to the scammers. To reactivate her page, she had to prove to the staff at Facebook that she was who she claimed to be.
She said she has learned several valuable lessons from the experience.
1. Make copies of your contact list, so you can notify people through another system if something goes wrong.
2. Set up accounts to notify you through texts or messages that something has been tampered with. For example, if I change my password on one of my website accounts, including Facebook, I receive an email message of the fact. If I receive such a message and I haven't changed the password, then I know something is wrong and I should act immediately.
3. With regard to Facebook, don't log in to your account using your email address. You have the option of creating a username instead. Use it.
4. Become like Fort Knox; make your password impossible to crack. Sure you could use the month you were born, the name of your street or ABC123, but hackers and scammers will try those first. I admit, I'm guilty of easy passwords. After all, who can remember U6Mn45_iL3? I like not having to refer to a posted note to login to my accounts. However, I also realize if it's easy for me, it's easy for everyone else, too. If you still want to keep it simple, mix it up a bit. For example, instead of tibert123, use tIbeRT_123. Most passwords are case sensitive, so even if you simply use tibErt, it's going to be harder to crack than using all lower case. One last thing, don't use the same password for everything just in case someone figures it out.
Diane Lynn Tibert is a freelance writer based in central Nova Scotia. She has recently updated many of her passwords, some that even Fort Knox may be proud of. Submit a query. It's free! 1787 Highway 2, Milford, Hants County, NS, B0N 1Y0; email: email@example.com, or visit The Family Attic, home to Roots to the Past: http://www.thefamilyattic.info/Roots.html)