Creating Awareness Around What We Never See Coming

23 Jul

The other night I joined some friends for leisurely activities in the Lower East Side.  After completing our “20 minute walk” from Washington Square Park, which realistically was more like 45 minutes in 90 degree weather, we arrived to find the restaurant we were planning on going to closed.  So while we formulated plan B, we waited for another member of our entourage to arrive.  When she did, she was frazzled and distraught.

On the way to the restaurant I had been informed in bits and pieces what had happened earlier that day to my friend-of-a-friend.  She had been traveling several weeks earlier in South America, and feared that while she was there she had forgotten to log out of her email account while in an internet cafe, and now someone had hacked her email  account, changed her password, and emailed all of her contacts soliciting money.  Posing as the young woman, the assailant contacted friends, family and work colleagues explaining that she had lost her wallet whilst traveling in London and needed immediately to be wired money from the US, so that she could pay her hotel bill and fly home.  And the worst part?  While perhaps it’s reassuring to know that she had a number of contacts willing to help her out financially, several of them were all but a keystroke away from divulging their own credit card and bank account information to a third party thief.  Including the CEO of her company!

Unfortunately, be forewarned that it is close to impossible in a situation such as this to convince your email carrier that your account has been hacked.  She tried.  Several faltered attempts.  And without sufficient physical evidence of these activities, which she couldn’t provide because she no longer had access to her account, GMail would not shut off the account.  A complete stranger with less than innocent intentions now had complete access to her friends, family & employer’s contact info, her personal emails to and from her ex-boyfriend, contacts for which she was utilizing to apply to new jobs, and her online bill pay information.  In other words, all the relevant ingredients for a professionally crippling case of identity theft.

In an age where many of us take for granted our enormous range of access to information at our fingertips, we also take for granted the security of everything we put out there.  Whether it’s your contact information, your personal life plastered all over Facebook, or your credit card information with every online transaction we make, we so detrimentally assume the “it can’t happen to me” attitude.  Ladies & gentlemen… NOT TRUE!

I had to leave shortly after our acquaintance joined us, and so I’m not yet privvy to the details of any kind of resolution to the situation, but I can imagine she’s in no easy spot right now as far as damage control.  And you – are you aware of what you’re putting out there to a bevvy of virtual strangers on a daily basis?  Does all of New York City know that you’re on vacation for the next 6 days in Cabo and not even your dog is at home because your best friend is taking care of him while you’re away?  Are you opening up the doors to your apartment and welcoming the neighborhood to come in and snoop around wherever they want, so to speak, because you left your Facebook account logged in at the bubble tea cafe? Or maybe it’s just your jealous coworker emailing your less-than-appropriate IM conversations to you boss because you rushed out of the office to meet Cindy for drinks at 6 without logging off of your computer.  Wait- wait- one more- how about the TIME STAMP on your blog post that your coworkers and boss can access from your online profile.   Did you every think that might throw a red flag out there and screw you over?  Don’t laugh…it happens.  (Okay, you can still laugh, so long as it’s not happening to you.)

Let this be a lesson to all to create complete and total awareness around everything we do online, where we provide access to our information (internet cafes, work, other people’s computers, etc.) and how we present ourselves to the digital universe.  Whether or not you’re in the market for a new job, needless to say, it can all come back to bite you in the…

Have a great weekend!

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