Thursday, January 20, 2011

Oh, no! How to recover your hijacked email account.

Oh, no! 

On January 17th, I dragged myself from my nice warm bed, tottered into the kitchen in search of that necessary cup of coffee, and as is my habit, turned on my computer to review my emails.

These days, I have a fairly busy inbox. Not only is my novel, This Bird Flew Away scheduled for release on the 27th which requires a fair bit of correspondence, I’m doing my own promotion, and that’s become very demanding. I also have a family and friends who keep in touch. I edit for new writers and there’s lots of back and forth there.
Did I mention I’m not a morning person? Getting into gear is a long slow process
But this morning, I awoke with a shock.
User name and/or password incorrect.
Now what? My still foggy brain stalled for a moment, trying to comprehend. 

I tried again.

Same result. I hadn’t made an input error. 

Like tens of thousands of other unsuspecting people of that morning alone, my email account had been hijacked. But I didn’t know it – yet.

No, it wasn’t for another hour and a half that fact became evident. Not until after I’d gone through the lengthy process of regaining access to the account. Not easy.

Google states they take your privacy and security very seriously, and to prove it, they’ve instituted a sort of merry-go-round guaranteed to have you gnashing your teeth.

Necessary, I suppose, but still annoying, like so many of those other things done for our own good.

For step by step instructions on how to recover from such a paralyzing blow, go to the full article published on hubpages:  Oh, no! How to recover your hijacked email account.
What they did 

Perhaps you, like me, are now asking yourself but why, why would they do this. What a good question.

The answer became apparent as soon as I got access to my emails (see full article,) around three and a half hours into my day. Every single contact in my file received the following message:
"I know this might be a surprise to you but I am sorry I didn't inform you about my traveling to Scotland for a Seminar.

I need a favor from you as I've misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money,and other valuable things were kept and

I will like you to assist me with an urgent loan of $2,500 U.S Dollars to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.

I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with and I promise to pay you back as soon as I return home.

Lynda M Martin
author of This Bird Flew Away"
Now, I still don't get this. There are no instructions to send money, no emergency contact number or address, no way for anyone to do anything except send an email back. Which many of you did (thanks.)

Any possible benefit would only accrue if they managed to keep control of my email account long enough to enter into correspondence with someone, without me finding out about it. If there's a moral here it's check your email account regularly. Move with all speed if something is wrong.

But the very sloppiness of the whole think reeks of amateurism. It smacks of someone making mischief just for the twisted pleasure of creating trouble in a stranger's life.

After all, if I was going to Scotland (my birth place and where I have relatives I can turn to if desperate) trust me, I'd probably write about it and you'd all know. And wouldn't I be unlikely to leave a few days before my book is released? Nor am I the kind of person who'd ask relative strangers to send me money -- in case the situation every comes up again.

But to those of you who did react with best wishes, regrets you weren't able to help, who tried every avenue to contact me, even as to setting up a thread on Hubpages, thank you. It's nice to know so many cared.
The consequences

This has been a grave injury to my business, to my reputation and my pride.

Every contact got this message, including agents who had rejected me, publishers I'd been in correspondence with, and even a Senator and his wife who I'd met at a Christmas party. The Senator was very involved in combating child abuse and had sent me contacts in the government to help with my research. Ye Gods, even the government got a copy of this!

It took me two days to contact everyone. I first, sent out a blanket email to all addresses explaining the situation:
"Any email from me requesting a loan is spam and a fraud. I am not in Scotland. I am not broke. I am fine, safe and sound at home where I've been all the time. Lynda"
But we all know what happens to blanket emails. They go to Spam. So I've literally had to write to hundreds of people individually and tell them the whole saga.

Worst of all, all my emails dated before January 17 are now lost irrevocably. 

There are people who wrote to me wanting editing, people I was editing, people who wrote to me for help in dealing with sexual abuse issues, people who wrote wanting interviews or to highlight my book and the list goes on and on. 

All I can say is here's the situation. If you have anything outstanding with me, please contact me.               

I hope none of you ever go through this, but if it does happen, I'm happy to share with you all I've learned.
Sincerely yours, 

For step by step instructions on how to recover from such a paralyzing blow, go to the full article published on hubpages:  Oh, no! How to recover your hijacked email account.

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