A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a very close family friend who lives in London… it read like this:
Subject: Dreadful Vacation
I hope you get this in time, my family and I made a trip to Kiev, Ukraine unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel we are staying, all cash,credit card and cell were stolen off us but luckily we still have our passports with us,
I have been to the Embassy and the Police here but their response was too casual, the bad news is our flight will be leaving very soon but we are having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let us leave until we settle the bills, I will need your help/LOAN financially I promise to make the refund once we get back home, you are my last resort and hope, Please let me know if i can count on you and i need you to keep checking your email because it’s the only way i can reach you.
Now, I hate to say it, but there was a part of me that was like ‘crap! Gillian’s in trouble, I should try to help her’. I thought it could be her because she would use words like ‘dreadful’ and ‘best regards’, she’s the type of person who travels a lot and is an extremely generous person, but also expects everyone to give as much as they get, in return. So maybe it was Gillian and she was in trouble and she really did need money…
But no, the smarter side of me did realise this was not a legitimate email and her account had been hacked.
This is where Week 4’s symposium comes into it. We discussed network literacy and the idea of validity on the internet. How do we know if a piece of information is true or false? In regards to hacking, Adrian Miles made the point that it is generally up to one’s better judgement and their internet/digital literacy skills to decide whether to ‘trust’ a piece of information or not.
So how did I know this email was a fake?
For one, as if anyone would ask a 19-year-old uni student who lives out of home for money!
Secondly, these days people do not simply ask for money over the internet. We are generally quite aware and cautious about our internet banking and who we are giving money to because there have been so many publicised cases of online money-stealing scams.
I have also been trained into doubting the validity of everything I see on the internet. For instance, even though thousands of pages have pop-ups telling me that I’m the 100,000th viewer of the webpage and I’ve won $100,000, I know I shouldn’t press on the link because I definitely won’t have won a prize and I also know the link may give my computer a virus or it will somehow rope me into giving away my money. All of us have learnt that these things are just teasers or ploys.
Well, maybe not all of us have quite grasped this idea yet. My mum received the same email. To her credit, she did doubt its validity; but unlike me, she actually replied…just to make sure (‘I didn’t want to look like a bad friend if it was real Mia’).
‘I hope everything’s alright Gillian. I’m just worried this isn’t actually you writing the email…’ and then she asked her some cryptic questions that only Gillian would know about their past experiences together.
So I guess it was a kind of smart way to go about it. But in this day and age, I think it’s safer to keep as little connection to internet hackers as possible… Besides, if I was an online money scammer and a middle-aged, slightly gullible woman who probably has money replied to me, I know what I’d do, wouldn’t you?