At around 6 p.m. on Feb. 11, the nearly 300 people in Karen Berlet’s email contact list received a troubling message. The email said that her and her family had been mugged while on vacation in Madrid, Spain and that their wallets and all of their money had been stolen. The email went on to say that they needed nearly $2,000 within 12 hours so they could settle their hotel bill and make their flight home. Except none of it really happened. Berlet’s email account with Rogers had been hacked.
“We were at friend’s for dinner Saturday, and my husband looked at his Blackberry and said ‘you sent me an email’ and I said ‘no I didn’t,’” Berlet explained.
After looking at the email and its strange wording, Berlet realized that she had been the victim of an email scam. She deleted the message, but soon calls and text messages came rolling in from concerned friends and family.
She quickly sent an email to her closest contacts to inform them of the fraudulent email and that the family was safe, then contacted Rogers to have the situation resolved.
The Rogers technical support worker told her to go into her email settings and change her password and password hints to stop the hackers from gaining access, but when she returned home she discovered yet another headache: the hackers had wiped her contact list and her email inbox clean, and she spent hours rebuilding the list from the contacts in her phone.
It was around that time that she also noticed her signature at the end of the email, which contained her name and phone number, had been changed so that the last four digits of the number were different from her real phone number, which she figures was in case someone tried to call and confirm if the email was true.
The email was also setup to forward all responses to a different email, this one a Yahoo account that spelled her last name with an extra t at the end.
The Heidelberg resident said she still has no idea how the hackers gained access to her account, though the Rogers support staff said it likely was through a Microsoft Outlook email account, which Berlet had tried to set up a few days earlier and is more susceptible to attack.
She also didn’t bother to go to police because she didn’t think they would have the time to look into every single case of email fraud that comes across their desk.
Rogers encourages their customers to be wary of unfamiliar emails and suspicious looking links, and to ensure that you log out of public computers and not share your password with anyone. They also suggest anyone who has had their account hacked to contact them, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
“We do take security very seriously and our systems are continuously being updated and include the best security measures we can implement,” said Leigh-Ann Popek, senior manager public relations with Rogers.
“I’m sure everyone has gotten this type of email.”
Berlet has since changed all of her security settings and had no problems since, but said that the incident has made her more wary of just how much information we make available online.
“There are all these scams out there, and suddenly you think about your online banking and all your accounts for everything are there online. In the technology world it’s getting more and more dangerous, but yet everyone wants us to put more and more stuff online because it’s convenient.
“It’s scary, you just don’t know sometimes.”