One of the strangers who sent scam messages last week has created a lot of trouble for a Parkland woman.
As it turns out, the scammer used Karen Kleinberg’s name apparently after hacking into her Yahoo account. Kleinberg said on Wednesday that she first learned of the problem on Thursday.
“My cousin from Colorado called my boss at 9 a.m. and asked if I was at work,” she said. “When I talked to him, he said, ‘Karen, everything’s fine here, but how are things in the UK?”
Kleinberg was confused until the cousin explained that he had received a e-mail with her name and e-mail address on it. In the e-mail, the scammer who claims to be Kleinberg weaves a sorrowful tale about being stranded in the United Kingdom after someone stole all her money, phone and credit card.
Scammers use all kinds of names to help pass themselves off as legitimate persons. This scammer not only used Kleinberg’s name and e-mail address, he or she stole all her contacts. Each of them received a copy of the e-mail.
Some copies went to people Kleinberg never has communicated with. One of those copies was forwarded to the Daily Journal on Friday as a typical scam.
By then, Kleinberg had fielded calls all Thursday from relatives who asked what was going on. Most realized by the message it was not the real Kleinberg, who is meticulous about punctuation and grammar in her e-mails.
She also received e-mails from some of the people on her contact list, some of whom she had only corresponded to once as part of her genealogy hobby. One of those contacts was very angry about receiving the scam.
That e-mail was riddled with heavy duty cuss words and angry incriminations, Kleinberg noted.
Kleinberg received one of the scam e-mails on her work computer later in the day. A co-worker stopped by to report receiving one as well. A cousin in upstate New York told Kleinberg she was “scared out of her wits.”
Kleinberg spent most of the day trying to contact Yahoo.com. She had successfully sent an e-mail from home the night before, but by noon on Thursday, her account was locked.
She managed to change the password to get back in, but at 11:52 a.m., a message arrived in her work e-mail inbox.
“Your password has been changed.”
Sure enough, someone had changed the password again, and this time, she could not change it back.
On Tuesday, a Yahoo.com representative contacted Kleinberg and tried to reset the account. Instead, she received a “red alert” message and could go no further.
Kleinberg opened a new account, but was unable to transfer her contact list. The whole thing has been a mess, she said.
“They told me I need to wait three to five days to find out what to do next,” she said. “I do genealogy and keep those folders on my Yahoo account, and I keep my banking statements in another folder.
“They have a lot of my information.”
Kleinberg has no idea who did this to her, but the person has caused her a great deal of aggravation and embarrassment, she said.
“People think this is me,” she said. “It’s not, and it’s not funny.”
There are many ways scammers can obtain e-mail addresses without hacking into an e-mail account. When people forward e-mails, they often forget that each e-mail includes the addresses of everyone who was sent the message. Some businesses sell contact information, and scammers often pass them around.
However, there are also viruses, trojans and types of spyware that can wreak havoc with your computer and e-mail program.
For example, some spyware captures keyboard strokes and sends them to someone who uses the information to steal your personal information. Other types capture pictures of your screen and transmit the pictures for the same reason.
One type of spyware works in the background and takes over your computer without your knowledge. Spyware takes over all the infected computers at once for a variety of criminal motives.
Effective computer protection programs can reduce your computer’s chances of being infected.
It is difficult to say what caused the problem in Kleinberg’s case, although she hopes Yahoo.com will have an idea in a few days.
Although it is wise to ignore and delete unsolicited messages from strangers, Kleinberg’s plight is a reminder to be suspicious of any e-mail that seems unusual, even if it appears to be a friend.
If there is any doubt, create an e-mail message for that person and ask if the one you received earlier was real.
The Daily Journal has made a commitment to keep readers abreast of scams that hit our area. If someone tries to make you the victim of a scam, call us at 431-2010 and tell us what happened. We will include your story in our scam alert series to prepare others who may find themselves in the same situation. The Daily Journal will run Scam Alert stories in the paper every Monday.