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COMMUNITY VOICE

Help, help, I am trapped in the Philippines and I've been hacked

Monday, February 3, 2014 - 8:55 am

You just have no idea how many friends you really have until you are robbed in the Philippines and can’t get home because you have no money, and I truly hope you never have to find out.

Well, you guessed it, my computer was hacked, and all of the people on my address list received an urgent email from (supposedly) me asking them to send me money because I had taken an emergency trip to Manila and had been robbed of cash, credit cards and cellphone on my way back to the hotel. If the email recipients wanted to help me get home, they were supposed to respond to an email address, which was my email address with one letter changed, so the recipient wouldn’t notice that they weren’t responding to the real me. Of course, if one followed that path, they were instructed to wire the money to an address in Manila.

I was blissfully sleeping while all this was happening, but an early morning phone call from son David in Utah (My gosh, it was 6 a.m. his time. What’s up?) brought me into a new reality. “David? Are you all right?”

“I am, Mom,” he assured me, “but I don’t think you are. I’m really glad to find that you’re not stuck in the Philippines, but your computer has been hacked.”

And thus began my day. The moment he hung up, my phone began to ring and it didn’t stop ringing all day! Friend after friend called to tell me they received the “letter” and that I had been hacked. Those who found my phone busy emailed me.

I had one call from a friend in Las Cruces, N.M., whom I hadn’t talked to in 55 years! Another phone call was from California, another from Kansas. I was dying to get back to my computer to solve the issue, but how can you hang up on a friend you hadn’t talked to since you were going through puberty in high school?

Soon, I stopped answering the phone, letting the messages pile up, and attacked the problem. Obviously, because of my generation and my brain, I am technologically challenged, and many of the phone calls gave me endless advice.

Go on AOL and change your password. Take your computer into Best Buy and they will fix it. Call my friend, he’s good with computers. Call my niece’s husband; he works on computers for a university. Drink a bottle of scotch and pray.

Next the comedians went into action. Many of my husband’s friends had received the distress-call email, and to a man they responded by emailing George and saying things like, “Let me know if I should send thousands of U.S. dollars to help your bride, or would you prefer to continue to enjoy the peace and quiet while she is working her way out of her current predicament. Or did some scoundrels compromise her email and send this bogus request in an effort to fleece Nancy’s generous friends?”

And can you believe my own beloved son-in-law Stuart actually emailed George, “I am sure after they’ve had a little time with Nancy, hearing songs she’ll write stranded there in the Embassy, assigning them parts in her new play ‘Phillip the Flippin’ Filipino Mugger’, they will offer to pay her way home.” Stuart was also afraid that if he chipped in on the “ransom” they might send him a Filipino bride.

I was so flustered by the whole thing and the phone calls and texts that when I went to change my password on my computer, I inadvertently gave the wrong answer to one of the most basic security questions – three times – and was locked out for 24 hours! (That was both humiliating and frustrating, and when my children found out that I had gotten my mother’s maiden name wrong three times, I worried that children might still be able to have their mother committed.) Those were the tensest 24 hours I have spent lately. Between answering phone calls, explaining what had happened and worrying that worse things might happen to my email, I was afraid I would have a heart attack. Then I would really need funds.

One friend who shall remain nameless, although it might be Howard Chapman, actually emailed back to the bogus email address saying he would be glad to help me, and they responded that “I” needed $1,950 to get home, and Howard was given an address in Manila to send it to. In the following email, Howard responded that he had gone to the bank for a loan and would be glad to send the money, but the bank was going to charge an extra $200 for the loan, so could I (supposed Nancy) please get together $200 from the embassy there to wire Howard to cover that additional cost? Then, he would get the $1,950 plus $200 and send it to me. You can’t scam an old scammer. Oddly enough, he did not hear another word. Howard travels a lot, so I am hoping he stays away from Manila for a while.

Well, the Geek Squad came out today; I have a new password, and I got to talk to 104 of my friends yesterday. And by the way, if you would like to help me get home, just send money to PO Box #U.R.Tricked. This embassy is small and the food is lousy.

Nancy Carlson Dodd is a resident of Fort Wayne.