Michael Thomason mug

Michael Thomason

I got this text message via Facebook from a friend: “My friend Chloe is in town. She thinks you’re cute.” Well, that struck me as odd. This sounded more like sixth-graders passing notes in class rather than something a grandfather might receive. Why would a female friend of mine who knows I am a happily married man of grandfather status send me such a message? What was this girl trying to stir up? Was this some kind of joke I was not getting? Was there a hidden message in the message? Was it just a case of mistaken identity? I thought about it for a moment, and realized the truth of the matter. My friend had been hacked. I sent this message back: “Your friend Chloe is blind.” Then I blocked the girl from my Facebook account.

I have since learned that Facebook accounts everywhere are being hacked or ‘spoofed,’ I think it is called, and use the cover of a real person to try and con all their legitimate contacts. Usually, this comes in the form of requests for money or more information. It is always a scam. This is a scary business when you consider somebody could have figured out your password or how to get around your password, not looking for you directly, but randomly. Whatever code or method they use to gain access is somehow linking up to real accounts and the game is on.

I remember now having received similar odd requests from other friends who have been hacked over the last year or so. So now it’s my turn. Friends all over are telling me odd requests and demands are coming from someone posing as me on Facebook. Typical is how my niece responded. She told me it took about four messages for her to figure out it wasn’t her Uncle Mike she was chatting with before she contacted me outside of Facebook. I logged out of Facebook, changed my password, and spent the next three days taking calls and messages from friends who wondered why I was contacting them and asking for money or private information. It is an embarrassing feeling to be used like that. I suppose I am not the only one.

The big deal is, there are people out there who can decipher passwords for hacking or backdoor ways of gaining access. I gave up trying to remember my various passwords years ago and use only a couple, and this is a huge mistake. If these hackers have my Facebook password, they very likely have a way to access many of my other accounts like email, investment accounts, Social Security, etc. I shudder to think what would happen if the same password was used for my banking or credit card accounts.

So the answer, at least for now, is to have a password of at least 14 characters, symbols, numbers, letters, etc. This is something I will never be able to remember, so I guess I have to buy a password protection program or spend the next few days, weeks, and months figuring out the perfect password.

As I study up on this very real phenomenon, I dimly begin to comprehend that I (and you) are rarely hacked in the password sense when it comes to Facebook accounts. We are almost always victims of those who ‘clone’ our status, pictures and contacts and all, and pretend to be us by ‘spoofing’. This is kind of like being a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as the old saying goes. They just put on your identity like a mask. There is a real aggravation to the whole situation, but it’s not as dangerous as actual password cracking. Still, it pays to change passwords anyhow, and not knowing the real difference between hacking and spoofing shows how innocently ignorant many millions of us are.

Sitting here writing this, my mind wanders and I wonder if perhaps there really was a Chloe after all, and if she really thought I was cute. I am an older dude now but consider myself fairly well preserved, so I suppose anything’s possible. I guess I’ll never know. Judy just read this in passing and paused to thump me on the head. Life is good.