Warmest regards: Be careful, be alert, be suspicious – Times News Online – tnonline.com

For the past 10 days, I have been in the middle of a hellish situation.

Here’s the bottom line: I got hacked. Big time.

I wouldn’t be so upset about it if it didn’t negatively impact my wonderful readers.

A few weeks ago many got email asking if they belonged to Amazon. If they responded yes, they were told a friend needed a favor. They were asked to send the friend a gift card from Amazon.

Right off the bat it was obvious this was a scam in the making. I just ignored it.

Most of us instantly recognize it as attempted fraud.

That scam got too upsetting to ignore when I had phone calls from several of my friends asking me what sort of trouble I was in.

They had gotten an email, supposedly from me, citing financial trouble. At least three wonderful friends called me to say, “How can I help?”

I can’t imagine any circumstances when I would hit anyone up for money, or, in this case, gift cards.

I would rather eat cat food.

We quickly established I wasn’t in trouble. It was just scam.

Most of us get different scam attempts and most of them are easy to spot and ignore.

About a dozen friends and readers didn’t ignore the attempted scam because they thought it was from me. And apparently, I needed help.

Several versions of that scenario went out to personal friends and readers. Some said I needed their assistance in helping someone in need. Others said I was in some sort of unspecified financial bind.

They were sure it was from me because they could respond to “me” using my email. They didn’t notice the email address was changed slightly from mine.

My own granddaughter was one who responded, thinking she was talking to me. She felt sorry that her old grandmother was having problems so she agreed to send $200 in Amazon gift cards as I supposedly asked her to do.

I was crushed to learn she lost her hard-earned money by trying to help me.

I’m also upset that other good people also got caught in the scam. Some people who have read my column through the years were the ones who reached out to help.

Here’s the thing. Only good people, those with giving hearts, would try to give the help they thought was needed.

It grieves me that they were conned.

So where was I when all this was going on?

I was locked out of all my accounts. Someone had successfully changed my passwords after they set up the phony Pattie account.

Facebook was able to tell me it was someone with an iPhone 11.

In addition to changing my passwords, I had to upgrade my computer system, adding more safety precautions.

While I’m still not quite back to normal and can’t get on Facebook, I wanted to write this column to let people know they have to be careful.

If someone asks you to send gift cards, that should be a red flag. Don’t respond to the message in any way.

One Jim Thorpe reader sent the best response to the scammer. “Do you think I’m stupid?” she responded. “I’m sending this to the real Pattie.”

One couple from Sarasota phoned me to say they are getting suspicious email from me that doesn’t sound like me.

A few times I have gotten strange sounding email from “longtime friends” that didn’t ring true to their typical writing style. I just ignored it.

Experts tell us ignoring the scam is best. If possible, don’t open it.

There are so many scams out there, posing as legitimate sites.

Within the past week I’ve gotten a phony email from the so-called U.S. Postal Service claiming they have a package for me that can’t be delivered unless I supply additional information.

I knew I wasn’t expecting a package so I ignored it.

In the past I also got email from my legitimate accounts saying I needed to supply more information or my account would be shut down. I was given a deadline for responding.

When I ignored it all, of course nothing was shut down.

One internet provider said to warn readers not to ever give your Social Security number or account number in respond to email or phone calls.

My neighbor keeps getting harassing phone calls from a credit company saying she needs to immediately send in payment or her credit card would be affected.

It’s been years since she has had an account with the so-called credit card company.

Internet dating sites can also be lucrative ground for scammers.

One woman said she met someone from another state online and they began writing back and forth. They thought alike, she said, and appeared to be soul mates.

When he was supposed to fly in for a visit, he said he needed a loan to buy his ticket because he’s in debt from medical expenses.

She sent the money. He never came because there was a family emergency and he needed more money, he said.

While she was tempted to send more money, she got leery and didn’t do it.

Her “soul mate” then disappeared.

The popular police show “Hill Street Blues” always ended with the warning: “Be careful out there, people.”

That advice is now more important than ever.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at newsgirl@comcast.net.

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