Business & Money

January 22, 2013

What I Did When My Email Account Was Hacked (Besides Panic)


From the PBS Business Desk: Paul Solman takes your questions about business and economic news!

Paul Solman: What follows is of a personal nature and only loosely within the ambit of economics, but friends have suggested it may be of general interest and even some use.

On Wednesday night at about 11 p.m., all previous emails and contacts vanished from my Yahoo! Mail account, which I have relied upon since the advent of email lo these many years. The next morning, friends began reporting that they had received the following message from my account:

I’m writing this with tears in my eyes, I came down to London, United Kingdom for a short vacation. Unfortunately, I was mugged at the park of the hotel where i stayed, all cash and credit card were stolen off me but luckily for me i still have my passport with me. I’ve been to the the Police here but they’re not helping issues at all and my return flight leaves in few hours from now but I’m having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let me leave until I settle the bills. Well I really need your financial assistance. Please let me know if you can help me out? I’m freaked out at the moment.

Now the first time you receive one of these from a friend — and I’ve gotten several — the natural reaction is to sympathize, to reach out. But as my contacts had been wiped, I had no way to reassure people en masse that this was a hoax. Moreover, the hackers had reset my “options” so that any replies automatically went to a slightly altered email account they had set up: my name, but with a period instead of an underscore between “Paul” and “Solman.”

I still don’t know if anyone was taken, though I changed my password promptly and fixed the “reply to” default.

Associates have been puzzled by my allegiance to Yahoo!, given its increasingly retro status. And presumably, they don’t even know about the ads that try to tempt me with available singles in “West Newton,” attentive to my whereabouts but impervious to either my age or standing as the world’s most contentedly uxorious mate.

So why would I rather stick than switch?

“Path dependency.” I explain: “Transactions costs.” I’ve grown accustomed to the interface. I know where the Yahoo! settings are. My contacts list has swelled over the years; my folder list runneth over. What old dog has the time or energy to export, import, file transfer and learn new tricks?

Click here to read the entire article at PBS News Hour.