Be Careful, Be Alert, Beware – Times News Online


For 10 days, I have been in the middle of a hellish situation.

Here’s the bottom line: I was hacked. Highligths.

I wouldn’t be so upset if it hadn’t had a negative impact on my wonderful readers.

A few weeks ago, many received an email asking if they belonged to Amazon. If they answered yes, they were told a friend needed a favor. They were asked to send the friend a gift card from Amazon.

From the start, it was obvious that this was a scam in the making. I just ignored him.

Most of us immediately recognize that this is an attempt at fraud.

This scam became too upsetting to ignore when I received phone calls from several of my friends asking what kind of trouble I was in.

They had received an email, supposedly from me, citing financial problems. At least three wonderful friends have called me to say, “How can I help?

I can’t imagine any circumstance where I would touch someone for money or, in this case, gift cards.

I prefer to eat cat food.

We quickly established that I was not in trouble. It was just a scam.

Most of us experience different scam attempts and most of them are easy to spot and ignore.

About a dozen friends and readers didn’t ignore the scam attempt because they thought it was mine. And apparently I needed help.

Several versions of this script have been circulated to personal friends and readers. Some said I needed their help to help someone in need. Others said I was in some sort of unspecified financial bind.

They were sure it was from me as they could reply to “me” using my email. They didn’t notice that the email address had been changed slightly from mine.

It was my own granddaughter who answered, thinking she was talking to me. She was sorry that her old grandma was in trouble, so she agreed to send $200 in Amazon gift cards as I had supposedly asked her to.

I was devastated to learn that she had lost her hard-earned money trying to help me.

I’m also upset that other good people got caught in the scam as well. Some people who have read my column over the years are the ones who have reached out to help.

Here’s the thing. Only good people, those with generous hearts, would try to give the help they thought was needed.

It saddens me that they got screwed.

So where was I when all of this was happening?

I have been blocked on all my accounts. Someone had managed to change my passwords after creating the fake Pattie account.

Facebook was able to tell me it was someone with an iPhone 11.

In addition to changing my passwords, I had to upgrade my computer system, adding more security precautions.

Although I’m not quite back to normal yet and can’t access Facebook, I wanted to write this column to let people know to be careful.

If someone asks you to send gift cards, that should be a red flag. Do not respond to the message in any way.

A reader of Jim Thorpe sent the best response to the scammer. “Do you think I’m stupid?” she answered. “I’m sending this to the real Pattie.”

A couple from Sarasota called me to say they were getting suspicious emails from me that didn’t look like me.

A few times I’ve received weird emails from “longtime friends” that didn’t fit their typical writing style. I just ignored him.

Experts tell us that the scam is best ignored. If possible, do not open it.

There are so many scams out there, posing as legit sites.

Over the past week I received a bogus email from the so called US Postal Service claiming they had a package for me that cannot be delivered unless I provide additional information.

I knew I wasn’t expecting a package so I ignored it.

In the past, I also received emails from my legitimate accounts saying that I had to provide more information or that my account would be closed. I was given a deadline to respond.

When I ignored everything, of course, nothing was stopped.

An ISP warned readers never to give out your social security number or account number in response to emails or phone calls.

My neighbor keeps getting harassing phone calls from a credit company saying she needs to send payment immediately or her credit card will be affected.

It’s been years since she’s had an account with the so-called credit card company.

Internet dating sites can also be a lucrative ground for scammers.

One woman said she met someone from another state online and they started writing back and forth. They thought alike, she said, and seemed like kindred spirits.

When he had to fly for a visit, he said he needed a loan to buy his ticket because he was in debt for his medical bills.

She sent the money. He never came because there was a family emergency and he needed more money, he said.

While tempted to send more money, she became suspicious and did not.

His “soul mate” then disappeared.

The popular crime show “Hill Street Blues” always ended with the warning: “Be careful, people.”

This advice is now more important than ever.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at


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