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Illustration via Boys with Banjos

Yesterday we had such gorgeous weather here in Paris! The sun was not only shining but it was blindingly bright, reflecting off the puddles and shiny streets from the heavy rain we had earlier in the morning. Today we're back to overcast, cool and gray, yesterday was simply a little teaser of what's to come: the much anticipated Paris in the springtime. Can't wait.


Having a rare free afternoon to myself, I moved my desk closer to the opened window that looks out onto our little street and nestled in with a cup of tea to do a monthly check-in to my Yahoo account. Why I don't just delete the account altogether, I don't know. I have in the past admitted to being a bit of a digital hoarder and have trouble letting go of pictures, screen names, email addresses, word documents, and my dusty aol account (vive missindierockr1981@aol.com!)


Hidden under a pile of Linked In requests and Career Builder job posts was an e-mail received from the father of my friend Jean. Random. Now you're wondering, why would my friend's dad's have access to my e-mail address? Is this the prequel to the creepy dad story from last week? No, not in the slightest, my life isn't that juicy. Before Jean relocated to Tokyo in 2011, he put me in touch with his father to join a jogging protest to close off the berges along the Seine, allowing only pedestrians and bicyclists to enter. I ended getting broken up with that week and had to move out of my home. My concerns for Parisians to enjoy a vehicle-free walkway along the river fell low on my priorities, and never made it to the protest.


Curious that I would receive a note from him after our brief two e-mail correspondence almost two years ago, I couldn't imagine what this was about. Maybe he was pissed that I flaked out, or wanted to share photos from the protest, if it in fact even took place. I had no clue. 

The e-mail was neither his disappointment, nor details of his jogger's movement. Jean's Dad contained a link with job offers that he thought I'd be interested in. 

How kind of him to think of me...so many years later. 

It had been a while since I'd spoken with Jean, perhaps he didn't realize that I have been working for several months now. I clicked through some of the jobs currently available here in Ile-de-France but none of the picks met my experience or skills. On top of sending Jean a Happy New Year e-mail, I also made a mental note to be sure to thank Jean's Dad for reaching out to me. 


An hour had passed and pulling myself out of a deep Facebook status haze, I looked up at my Yahoo tab and saw that I had 206 e-mails waiting for me. 206? It would take six months to accumulate 206 to that account. How was this even possible?


Clicking on my inbox, it was bleeding with pages of "Mailer-Daemon" return to sender receipts of e-mails I had apparently sent? Quoi? Much to my horror, I opened my sent folder to see that "I", in the past hour had sent out e-mails to over 600 contacts in my address book.


Okay, so not nearly as embarrassing as when the president and designer of the fashion house I worked at in New York sent out a global company email announcing cutbacks, in particular Christmas bonuses due to the year's "soft" sales figures, and one of the VPs replied all (I repeat, replied all!) thanking them for making an exception for a select few, and that she was able to put a down payment on an a home on Croton-on-Hudson. Not that bad, but embarrassing enough.


The worst part is that just how I thought Jean's Dad's e-mail was real, so did everyone else. My brother sent a snippy e-mail reminding me that he already had a job, Aurel's father Gilles thanked me for thinking of him but informed me that he had retired several years ago, Brett wanted to know all of these cryptic e-mails were about because he had received four of them (get real Brett, I may be many things but secretive and cryptic?), the parents of my students misunderstood and thought it was a passive-aggressive was of announcing my current job hunt, and executives from Louis Vuitton to Christian Dior to Marc Jacobs all received this random e-mail from me. 


What the "job post link" did was that it emailed every single person in my address book with a clever filter that populated the first name of each recipient in the subject, for example, "Hi MF!: P", "Hi Lucien! : P", "Hi MF's obnoxious female friend who had drinks with us while remaining topless in Nice! : P", "Hi LVMH Human Resources! : P"

Yes, with the little tongue emoticon. You know, just to make sure I really looked like an idiot. 

I. am. mortified.


Several friends of mine fell victim to the spam attack after opening my e-mail, and they all had the same embarrassed reaction that I had. This whole experience got me thinking, even if the  sent messages didn't contain a pesky spam link, I would have still be mortified. Why is that? Nothing terribly inappropriate or personal was included in these e-mails, so what is it about reaching out to people you haven't spoken to in a while or that you don't know so nerve-wracking? Why would an apparently friendly e-mail with job posts be so embarrassing? I know people who have thousands of Facebook friends but would never dare send a message or "like" something of half of them in fear that it would be seen as "random". In a time where connecting with others is easier than ever, why do we hold back so much? 

I quickly sent out an apologetic e-mail for the spam and advising all to not click on the link. Luckily no one was too pissed off with me, well except for Kitty who got cyber-cornered with an awkward correspondence with one of her guido ex-boyfriends from Glen Cove. 

This little crisis did put me back in contact with a bunch of people I hadn't seen or spoken to in years, and with everything in my life, I learned a thing or two. I learned who had changed jobs based on the e-mails that were bounced back, hackers are more powerful than they get credit for, and ilovemycat246 is no longer considered to be a strong password. 

21 comments:

  1. That's sneaky! I usually pick up on the spam pretty easily, but with the name and the fact that you thought it was coming from a non-native speaker anyway covering up for spelling/grammar mistakes, i can see why you fell for it.

    And I know what you mean about not liking facebook statuses or answering tweets in case people think "why is she interested?" In the case of facebook though, I have at least half my "friends" hidden and probably nearly as many on lockdown so they can't see any of my stuff. Which makes you wonder why we're facebook friends in the first place!

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    1. It was so sneaky! I didn't think spammers would go so far that they would have our first names imported in the subject line! It was so embarrassing to see all of the emails "I" sent.

      Social media is so strange like that, we're friends with people but feel weird reaching out to them. I know I'm guilty of it...but why?

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  2. Oy. That can happen to even the most careful of us all. And if it's coming from someone we know, it's even easier to fall victim. I came so close to clicking on a link in an email someone sent me recently when I realized it just had to be spam! The poor guy didn't even know his email had been hijacked until I told him.

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    1. Yeah! I really thought the email from Jean's dad was legit. It was a well-done scheme because all of my contacts fell for it too. I think g-mail is pretty good a catching this stuff but with yahoo it happens a lot! Cautionary tale to all yahoo users out there!

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  3. OY VEY..is right...it can happen so easily...

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  4. I'm lucky in that gmail and hotmail have very good spam filters, I get more confused when I get an e-mail from someone who obviously has fallen victim to something like this entitled 'Don't open that last e-mail from me' or something like that, when there's nothing in my inbox from them for days/weeks/months/years!

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    1. Hotmail still exists??? When it first came out my mom thought it was a porn site. She kept hearing me say things like 'send it to my hotmail', or 'I haven't been on my hotmail today yet..'She finally asked me who was this "hot male" was that I kept talking about. It was pretty funny.

      Gmail catches spam quickly, I never get junk in my inbox with that account. Good thing I use that one more often these days!

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  5. Even worse -- it may happen again. The only solution is to delete all of your contacts from the infected email account.

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    1. Hi Deanne,

      Thanks for the heads up. I changed my password and deleted obsolete contacts, so far so good. I'm hoping I won't have to delete all my contacts. That sounds like a lot of work! : )

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  6. My main email was hijacked it would seem. I keep receiving emails from myself in my junk mail... But they don't appear in my sent mail folder... I quickly changed passwords!

    And in my other account, the one I use for blogs and hardly ever check, I had the very unpleasant surprise to realize, the other day, that I had mailer-daemon messages for emails my account had been trying to send to a friend of mine who died of cancer six years ago. Creepy.

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    1. Oh my, that is creepy, and really sad too. I know hackers and spammers don't consider these things at all (are they even human beings?), but they should. I'm sure you're not the first to experience this. What creeps they are, really...



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  7. I believe the most effective solution is to change your password right away. I don't think deleting your contact list is necessary. The exact same thing happened to my dad yesterday. He got a message with a link from a "friend," clicked on in... and ended up sending spam to all of the people in his contact list. I told him to immediately change his password and send out an email advising his contacts not to click on that link. That took care of the issue.

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, I just changed my password and it's been fine...so far at least, and like your dad, I sent out a warning email. It sounds like your dad and I had the same hack. I'm glad we were both able to clear it up! I always get nervous that they'll change my password and lock me out! I'm grateful that that didn't happen.

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  8. I'm with Gwan, that is uber sneaky. I didn't realize there were ones like that out there that are so easy to fall for.

    Now I'm curious about who is in my contacts! I have changed my email account, about every 3 years, so I don't think I have people from my past-past. I would be mortified as well; in particular in regards to the exes, distant family members and with my students' parents/clients.

    That fashion house email.. wow.. That could be an piece of art... It's hilarious and crazy!

    This is such a great topic and post. The questions in the paragraph under "I. am. mortified." provide such a great topic of conversation, of exploration. I have noticed the same thing on Facebook too (people I have met/went out with recently will start liking all my stuff.. and as time passes they stop liking, until they see me again, or until I email them a Hello. Funny pattern.).

    Oops, another lengthy comment. Old habits.. P.S. My first passwords all related to cats!

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    1. That email that the girl sent out to the entire company was such a mess! She came storming down to IT crying and demanding that the email was retracted. They were able to do it but a lot of people saved screen shots of it because it was that insane! I don't know what ever happened beyond that, but I knew that a lot of people were pissed that bonuses were being secretly distributed!

      It's so true about Facebook and even on Twitter (I'd say less though), we're so nervous to reach out, yet we're "friends". I don't talk to half of the people I'm friends with on Facebook which is silly! Lately I have been commenting and liking things on posts and statuses from people of my past and the response has been great. I've caught up with a bunch of people!

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  9. Gah, that is a mess! Totally sympathizing with you as I'm pretty sure spam has been sent out from my old Yahoo! account as well. The last time I checked it there were a few replies to me that were weird, and since I hadn't logged in for months, I'm sure that's what happened. But I completely understand what you mean about internet hoarding. I was trying to figure out what was still in that account that I would want to/need to save if I wanted to delete it. But then I couldn't even FIND how to delete the damn thing. Should probably look into that before they get me too...

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    1. If you delete it, make sure there aren't any account linked to it. When I deleted an account, I didn't realize that it was linked up to Twitter and FB, and so if I ever lost or forgot the password to either of those accounts, I couldn't use the retrieve password option. Twitter actually says that it's not their problem if you can't access the account because of this. It's annoying.

      It might just be better to keep it, you never know what you might need in there!

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  10. Omg that's mortifying!

    Delete yahoo. That's up there with hotmail, a total no-no.

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    1. Yeah, I hear you. My g-mail account would never turn on me like that!

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  11. Confession - I still have my yahoo account that I setup 17 years ago!!! I've slowly been fading it out but it's so hard to let go.
    And on the bright side of this debacle... maybe you'll reconnect with some long lost friends :)

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