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  • What would you think if you got this email from a friend?


    I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, My family and I came down here to Manila Philippine

    for a short vacation unfortunately we got mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed.

    All cash,credit card and cellphone got stolen off us but luckily for we still have our life and

    passport safe. We've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues

    at all, Our return flight leaves in less than few hours from now, But We having problems

    settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager insist we must settle the bills before we leave.

    I'm freaked out and i need your urgent help with ($1,850)

    Would you reply immediately, saying "Of course I'll help. Keep calm. If you need money, go to a bank and withdraw some from my account. My debit card number is 0917 2243 5612 5983 and my pin is 9876. You can pay me back when you return."? Uh-huh.

    I have received the same message from Manila from two friends within the last two weeks. Both have Yahoo email accounts, but that may be a coincidence. Most likely, they had fairly obvious email passwords that someone was able to crack to hijack their account and then spam their online address books with this heartfelt plea.

    What I want to know is who would bother to do serial password cracking and then issue such lame and ungrammatical solicitations? They don't even include a mechanism to rip off the recipient. Really, if you take the effort to steal someone's identity to spam his or her contacts, couldn't you at least do it in a way that might pay you for your time?
  • Maybe it wasn't some clueless script kiddies who spammed me. The victim's purloined address book could be bound for a database of email addresses being peddled for several hundred dollars around the darker recesses of the Internet. The message from Manila I received could just be a probe to see if my email address is valid. If it didn't bounce back to the spammers, then my address is worth adding to their database, tagged verified.

    Maybe your next slice of spam will appear to come from Amazon, FedEx, or Citibank, and ask you to confirm delivery or secure your account. This has happened to me many times. The only way to stop it from happening is to change your email login name or maybe even your provider, which we all know is a pain, so we don't. But at least you can change your password every few months. It isn't all that painful. Just write your new password down and put that reminder where you can find it if it slips your mind.

    So, thanks to advances in digital technology, it is getting easier for your identity to be stolen and forged. But remember, it's not just about you; when that happens, your friends may continue to suffer long after you have fixed the problem. And neither you nor they will realize what caused it.

    I heard someone whose credit card number got lifted say, "when someone steals your identity, they only take the good parts." Right, why can't they take my neuroses? Anyway, whether it's your plastic or your email account, forging your identity is a gift that can keep on giving. So think of your friends potential anguish, and change your easy-to-remember email password to something a lot harder to guess.

    [Before you go, check out tips from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on how to maintain your personal information's security and things you can do if it is compromised.]

    Spam is a registered trademark of Hormel Foods, LLC.
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