Beware Email Address Theft


BEWARE, people. Some jerk (or maybe just idiot if allowed the benefit of the doubt) has been using, and trying to hijack, my bandolero email address. He’s been using it as the “contact email” for accounts he creates on unsavory (though some would say titillating) “social” websites, and also when ordering “toys” from advertisers on such websites and other online sellers. He’s also been trying to get Gmail to give him my password by means of the “I forgot my password” link. He’s also stupid, as I have acquired his name and address, and even had a look at his house from street level courtesy of google maps.

But here’s the warning: on some sites where he set up such accounts, his profile included links to my FaceBook and MySpace pages, where my bandolero address is supposedly only visible to “friends” and “friends of friends” according to my privacy settings. Whether there is more sharing among social sites than they let on, or more hacking between them than they’d care to admit, I don’t know. But, it was somewhat surprising to see my FaceBook photo and Gmail photo (he’s apparently uglier than I am though claiming to be only 40) next to photos of his (or should I say “my”?) admirers that were, well…, I’ll just say I’d have preferred seeing pictures that at least aspired to Playboy standards.

Okay, okay, I know what you’re dying to say, but don’t, I’m serious here. A couple of security newsletters I get have recently warned against FaceBook and Twitter accounts. I border on paranoid when it comes to guarding “personal information” but the focus is usually on things like account numbers, SSNs, passwords, etc. Theft of one’s email address used to mean seeing it forged on a gazillion spams. But now we also need to think about how much personal info somebody can get and use to our detriment by stealing just our email addresses, even without stealing our email accounts.

Think about it, and be prudent. I don’t think I’m ready yet to abandon FaceBook and LinkedIn, though I should’ve ditched MySpace a long time ago. On the other hand, I’m beginning to think again about chappells.us or something like it as a better vehicle for sharing things we’d really like to share but which it would behoove us to protect.

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