Thursday, September 20, 2007

It can happen to you...

Yesterday I received an email from a friend of mine who is a priest out of state. Actually, you may know him. His name is Fr. James and I post his Sunday homily here every Sunday!

So, yesterday morning I opened his email and found out that he was in South America attending a conference. He was writing his friends to tell them that he was actually stranded because he forgot his bag in the taxi that contained his passport, wallet and important documents. He said that he reported everything to the authorities and was working on trying to get a new passport and didn't have money to eat, get another passport, or stay anywhere. Fortunately a family there took him in for a night and fortunately his blackberry was in his pocket so he was able to send the email, but he was in dire straights in a strange country. He asked if I could send money to the address he noted and he would pay me back when he returned.

This was incredible! I was worried about Fr. James and this strange email. But, I couldn't believe this! Something was really wrong here. After just a minute I thought that this must be the workings of a hacker who had gotten into Fr. James's email and was using it to solicit money from Fr. James's address list! I called his parish and only got his voice mail. I called every extension leaving messages and even dialed the emergency number that was provided and left another message. I had to tell Fr. James about this in case he didn't realize that someone had hacked into his email and I had to find out if Fr. James was all right!

Finally an hour or so later the parish secretary called me to tell me that it was a hoax and that Fr. James was fine but now had to get everything back in order and deal with protecting his identity, etc. He was not aware that it had happened until the parish received about one hundred calls inquiring about that email!

This could happen to anyone. Always be aware of strange emails. In this case the email initially looked legitimate because it had my friend's address. I had received emails in the past begging for money that I opened by mistake and then deleted them immediately. But I never received an email that I thought was from my friend because it was from his email address. Just be careful on the Internet.

A few "give aways" --Fr. James doesn't have a blackberry (I wasn't sure about that though) and the email was signed, "Best Regards" and he would have said,"God bless." AND it didn't say "Fr. James," instead it had his first and last name.

6 comments:

Margaret Mary Myers said...

Wow!

Incidentally, this doesn't absolutely mean anyone hacked into his own email account. I don't know how it's done, but a few years back, scammers were sending out emails from addresses they picked up from groups and such, and using them to send viruses, without actually having access to those email accounts they were supposedly from. Of course, it never hurts to actually open an email as long as it doesn't have an attachment, and as long as we don't click on any links or...in cases of request, act without investigating. Glad you caught that! Maybe it's because I was just reading your story rather than an email, but I fell for it, feeling for the priest being stranded in South America! :)

Margaret Mary Myers said...

Correction to my previous comment. :) I said something like: it doesn't ever hurt to open an email unless it has an attachment, as long as one doesn't click on the email or respond to a request. Well, I meant as far as viruses, stolen identity, and bogus requests. I didn't mean as far as immoral stuff. I just had wanted to share that I'd been through all this before, in terms of someone sending emails supposedly from my friends (or myself). Didn't want everyone to panic, though. :) One precaution I take for my own comfort is that I have my emails set up so that graphics don't show until I enable them for a particular email. I don't know if any of this is making any sense. I shouldn't have given up coffee. LOL.

Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle said...

It's pretty scary, though that it can be done,isn't it?

Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle said...

Coffeee or no coffeee, you make sense! I had heard, though that even opening an email without an attachment can expose you to viruses. I also heard that they can even come in through instant messaging. That's why it's important to be up to date with virus protection.

Thanks for commenting, Margaret Mary!

God bless,
Donna

Esther said...

Good thing you were on the ball! Stories like that creep me out. I've been recently thinking that I am giving away too much info on the internet re: my family. Thanks for the warnings.

Angie said...

Wow, I totally believed it too. Of course, I thought it would be strange that he would have a blackberry. Funny, I can't see my priest walking around with a blackberry.

I have seen all those emails that people send out asking for money or saying that you have inherited some. However, I've never seen anything like this email.

Thanks for posting it Donna!