A delightful woman of my acquaintance came up with her husband at the recent reopening in North Hills of our mutual Raleigh hangout, Quail Ridge Books, and said with a big smile, “Hey, I’ve really been enjoying our chats on Facebook.”
While I was pleased that she had found “our chats” entertaining, I had to tell her that her Facebook companion was in fact an imposter. I had been hacked. I’d come to find out in ensuing days that “being hacked on Facebook” could mean several things. It was a relief, however, to know that my “talks” with her had not been ribald in nature, as presumably her husband would have signed me off, so to speak.
This woman was somewhat startled. “Hmmm ... well, come to think of it, it didn’t always sound like you,” she said. “Shall I unfriend you?” I told her it might be best, though I’d take steps to ensure security and would try to see if the unfriending process could be avoided. Unfriending is the Facebook equivalent of a slammed-down phone, a Dear John letter of cyberspace and the social network. There’s something traumatic about it.
Then, the very next day, a most engaging woman called the office to say, “Jim, I suspect you’ve been hacked. I started having these very nice conversations with you, and I answered your friend request, which I thought would be fun, but then in looking at your profile, it said you were born in 1998. That made me suspicious, or I wondered if you’d had a very hard 18 years.” Yes, I’d had a hard 18, and another 40-something with varying degrees of difficulty.
Those more savvy in the technology galaxy than I offered various versions of what was going on. One noted that these hackers inevitably bring things around to money at some point — soliciting it, offering some kind of sweepstakes thing, or just outright asking for it. Some take a long time, chatting about this and that, before trying to set the hook.
More about that later.
But I ventured with a woman friend and wise skeptic that I had my own theory as to why I seemed to be such a favorite target of these rascals.
“See,” I told her, “my guess is that there are guys stealing my info and my picture, trying to trade on my chisled looks and my winning smile, to ingratiate themselves with supermodels like that Heidi Klum or perhaps even movie stars such as Renee Zellweger and Jennifer Aniston, which would, you know, be a logical maneuver by ordinary Joes envious of my world.”
“Well,” she said, “speaking of that, what color is it in your world today? No, guess again, big boy.”
I decided to take it to the top, using my journalistic resources to plan to speak to that Mark Zuckerberg guy who founded Facebook with his college roomies. I would offer some ideas that might even bolster his company, because a fellow can go through $40 billion quickly, you know. So I called and emailed the Facebook headquarters in California. To my surprise, they did respond fairly quickly with an email, which included some links to suggestions about security and the like. I had told them I was mainly concerned about Internet security, but they claimed no expertise there.
They were perfectly courteous texts, though a plain-English actual conversation would have been better. It might also have been helpful to the nine or 10 other people I know who have been hacked more than once. This is no small problem, apparently, and often does involve money scams, which ought to mean serious legal trouble for offenders.
For now, I’ve done all I could to protect all those who might be subject to the whimsy of a cyber charlatan. And to those women who may have been bamboozled, please take no offense and do not accept as gospel any suggestions of further contact or even proposals of marriage. Unless you are Jennifer Aniston, in which case I’m dead serious.
Jenkins: 919-829-4513 or firstname.lastname@example.org