It started with a phone message from a good friend left early this morning, so I knew the news couldn't be good. "I think you're email's been hacked," she warned. And then my son called before he usually gets up to croak in a tone that implied I was a moron to still be using AOL mail, "Mom, you've been hacked." And then he hung up, leaving me to figure out a solution.
This has happened before, and I realized the spammer was one day off -- April 1 was yesterday -- so I didn't panic, just changed my email password and went on reading the newspaper. After a couple of hours, I noticed that I wasn't receiving any mail, so I called up AOL technical support (for which I pay a monthly sum) and discovered that the hacker had blocked all incoming mail. I learned how to reset the mail filter and then reset my password once more and my password question as well, so the next time this happens -- and i'm sure there will be a next time -- I'll know how to reset everything on my own.
As happened last time my mail was hacked, several people I haven't spoke with in ages called me on the phone. A couple were fooled by the impersonator's plea for $1,500 in cash to buy kidney for a cousin in Spain and asked me if they could help. A few were concerned about my well being, as if I had suffered from an invasion of my space, which I had, but since it's all digital, it's not like a robber came and stole my cash with a gun.
I never got to see the spammer. It could have been an algorithm generated by a gang of teenagers in Moldava or Kiev, where kids think spamming is part of the new cold war against rich Westerners. When criminals are anonymous and in cyberspace, it's not that the impact is less real. It's just that the damage can usually be reversed. And by 10:38 a.m. it was.