The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 26, 2014

‘Terrible grief’ email causes just that

Mystery hacker accesses Valley man’s deleted messages

ELYSBURG — ELYSBURG — Ted Y. is a Realtor and retired teacher.

He is not in Istanbul, Turkey, in trouble and emailing friends and acquaintances for money.

His name was familiar so opening the email sent from his AOL account didn’t seem wrong. However, the “Terrible Grief” in the subject field should have been a clue.

The email read:

Good morning,

I Hope you get this on time, I made a trip to Istanbul and had my bag stolen from me with my passport and personal effects therein. The embassy has just issued me a temporary passport but i have to take care of my expenses and settle my hotel bills with the manager.

I have made contact with my bank but it would take me 3-5 working days to access funds in my account, the bad news is my flight will be leaving very soon but i am having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let me leave until i settle the bills. I need your help financially and i promise to make the refund once i get back home, you are my last resort and hope. Please let me know if i can count on you and i need you to keep checking your email because it’s the only way i can reach you.

A quick call to Ted not only confirmed he was nowhere near Istanbul but that he was already well aware of the fake message being sent out to everyone he had ever contacted by email.  

Calls from people receiving the email “started almost immediately, from all over the world,” he said.

Did he know if anyone had fallen for the scam and sent “him” money to “settle his bills?”

“I certainly hope not,” he said. One friend told him he knew it couldn’t be true “because the spelling was atrocious.”

How someone had hacked into or used an email made to look like his email account and access his contact list was a mystery, but may be linked to the recent warnings sent out first by Yahoo and then AOL.

This month, both companies made changes to its DMARC email specification policies to thwart spammers from sending messages out of old, deleted email accounts or fake ones — called “spoofing” — that looked like they were coming from Yahoo and AOL. Plenty of AOL and Yahoo users — and their friends and contacts — were complaining about spoof spams, so the companies made some changes.

But that has caused another problem — AOL and Yahoo users are now complaining email messages are not getting delivered.

With so many AOL and Yahoo accounts having been hacked, the problem most people are now seeing are emails from “friends” and “acquaintances” with Yahoo and AOL addresses slipping through the spam protection.

The bigger headache for Ted has been the near constant phone calls.

“My email goes to my cellphone,” he said.

Be on the alert for spoofed emails and if you are an AOL or Yahoo email user, consider switching to another provider.

And before you send any money overseas to help a friend in trouble, call the friend first and verify everything is OK.


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