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    Re: Hacked email
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2012 Apr 9, 13:14 -0700

    Yeah, there's no question that his email was hacked. This is becoming more common for the same (technical) reason that social media networks are thriving: average people now have very large email address books. So if you can get someone's email password, you can send messages to all of their contacts. This is far better than the old methods of scamming because it bypasses standard filters and also because contacts in an address book have usually gone through some approval process. Note that this is NOT the same as the old practice of "spoofing" an email address. I can send an email with the "From" tag set to anything I want, but that gives me NO access to your list of contacts. That practice is called spoofing. Many email systems will detect this and reject emails that do not pass a reverse look-up test (this is very aggressive and fortunately most email systems do NOT perform this test). In the case of a hacked account, the criminals --and they are generally organized criminal operations-- have acquired the actual password and have full access to the email services and the address book of the victim. It's a terrible nuisance, and it may be impossible for the victim to recover the email account.

    Tens of billions of dollars are being sucked out of the US economy every year by these online scams (and they do primarily target Americans for practical reasons: more Internet connectivity and more cash). These scams are very difficult for Internet novices and many older people to understand. If you know anyone who might be vulnerable, sit down and talk with them. Explain that email can't be trusted. Point out the warning signs like requests to "wire money". Explain very clearly that they are dealing with people outside the reach of US law when they are online. They can and do get away with it, and there is almost nothing that US law enforcement can do about it. Don't trust anything that sounds too good to be true. Do not accept any "work-at-home" offers or "mystery shopper" jobs that promise to send a check. And remember that ALL checks are suspect unless you know the source. If someone sends you a check and you deposit it, the nearly immediate availability of the funds proves only that your bank trusts YOU, not that the bank trusts the check. If you see a virus warning insisting that you need to pay up, call a computer expert before you are victimized. These things happen every day, and I guarantee you that you know someone who has been conned. Unfortunately for all involved, most victims of online scams are deeply embarrassed and they keep their stories to themselves... Craigslist has a good, short page with warnings about scams: http://www.craigslist.org/about/scams . People who are good at one technical subject (e.g. celestial navigation) sometimes believe that they are experts at all technical subjects by extrapolation (this is the well-known "cocky navigator" problem). Such people are easy targets for scammers. So beware.

    And finally, a scary thought. The same intelligent software that is making digital technology easier is rapidly improving the quality of scams at every level. Creating artificial online personalities who offer advice on politics, products, and activities and leading the unsuspecting to believe that they have "friends" who agree with them... that's happening already. The future belongs to the con artist.


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