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I recently had a nasty experience. My email was hacked. It might have taken me some time to realize it except for the fact that friends and   even people I had lost contact with years ago phoned me to let me know and make sure I was okay, not lying in a ditch somewhere, body broken (that would be Crazy D), and didn’t need money (well, I’d never turn down contributions — after all, I have The Pig to feed).

I ended up having some lovely conversations and many laughs over it. Gill, L’il Sis and Crazy D were, of course, quick to point out that I probably did something stupid (like open a virus-ridden email) to bring upon my own downfall. I will never admit it, but they’re probably correct. My cries of, “But I’m careful about emails from strangers. I don’t open them…” fell on deaf ears.

“Mom.,” explained Crazy D carefully and methodically (as if speaking to an idiot), “Hackers can use all sorts of tools and tricks to steal company logos so the sites look legit. And anything that has the words”final warning” in it is a huge red flag.”

“So YOU say…I get those all the time when I’ve lost a cable bill or hydro bill under a pile of papers and have forgotten to pay them. That’s just a normal Tuesday for me and my ‘filing system’.”

“You pay things on line, Mom, why don’t you just get them to send the bills online as well? Then you couldn’t lose them.”

“Want to make a bet? They’d come in, I’d forget to download or print them and I’d be back in the same spot!”

“Get the automatic payment option!” Crazy D continued, frustrated.

“I don’t trust the bank that much!” I countered.

“Odd…since you apparently trust a bad speller in the Ukraine with your email password…”

“I do not. I was tricked!”

But the fact remains, it was unsettling. And the worst part is that, after many, many years, I had to change my password. That’s playing with fire at my age. The number of things I forget is growing, so what are the odds I’ll remember the new password? Nil, I’d guess. Vegas hasn’t had  odds like this since the Nixon administration.

The most upsetting thing about the fake email the hacker sent out was that it contained bad grammar and even worse spelling. Anyone familiar with me knows that is a huge red flag. I was raised in the draconian era when math, spelling and grammar drills made up most of the school day. Old age and increasingly annoying memory lapses occur, but still I’m sure I have forgotten more grammar and spelling rules than many people ever know. The math is another story. But I never claimed to be  mathematician. I do possess proof of my M.A. in English…I know because, in a recent purge, I discovered my degrees at the bottom of yet another stack of papers. (I also never claimed to be an office manager.)

The fake email claimed I had met with ‘a terrible incident’ and needed money. Of course it did. I have had better, much more persuasive fake pleas for money before  (including pleas from my own children) — usually from Nigeria but this one purportedly came from Ukraine. Perhaps the sender was trying to infer that, while traveling in a war-torn area (as I, an old, risk-averse timid white lady often do!!!) I was hit by a Russian RPG or ate some bad borscht. Both legitimate and reasonable causes for an incident.

That very same day, I watched a segment on a news program in which an anchor interviewed a young (26 years old) young man whose career was full-time hacking. He had hacked huge stores, banks, you name it — until he was finally caught and traded a few years of jail for helping the FBI improve their security. Asked if it was still possible, with all the heightened, tightened security fixes to still hack into accounts, he answered, “No problem at all.” So I’ve decided …I want that guy living here! We could move the canaries out of their room, Gill could bunk with me over Christmas, and we’d never be hacked again. On second thought, after spending a few hours in this crazy house, he’d probably leave ( hacking my computer for revenge as he left in the dead of night!)

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