My email was hacked last week. I woke up on Thursday morning, and while taking my first sip of coffee, I went to check my email on my phone. However instead I received an error message saying that my password was not valid, and it could not connect to the server–or some such. I went to the desktop and AOL told me that my account was locked because of “suspicious activity.”
Yes I still use my AOL account–I have had it for around fifteen years. I signed up for that account with a 14.4K modem that would tie up the phone line, and would charge you by the minute after your allotted time expired. I have EVERY contact in that account, from my inception as a real estate agent.
So you can imagine my consternation.
I am notoriously unorganized. And it makes my line of work much harder when you are as unorganized as me (I?). Precious minutes are wasted daily as I search for an email or phone number. Luckily in this day and age, everything is saved, so ultimately I find what I am searching for. It just takes a bit of creativity. Those email addresses in my AOL account are VERY important to my livelihood.
Luckily the hacker did not delete anything. But what he (or she) did was send out a fairly genuine looking email saying this:
” Hello, I have just been informed by our bank that payment that was sent to your bank by our customer has been returned because it could not be credited to your account. Attached via below is the document from our bank stating the reasons.” And there was a link to something that would unleash a virus onto the computer of whoever opened it.
There was no trace of who they sent it to, but judging from the reaction, I believe it was to the first 500 or so contacts. I spent the better part of an hour getting my email back up and running. I have the text to your phone back-up option, so that wasn’t too difficult, but AOL makes you jump through some hoops to get oneself declared not a spammer. Which is good (and totally understandable.) But that is when the calls and emails starting rolling in.
For the rest of the day, one after another people were calling or writing. They ranged from very sympathetic, (which were most) to pretty annoyed,(which were only two.) Most knew it was spam, and just wanted to let me know what was going on. A few were confused, and a very few (most of whom I am currently in deals with), did click on the link thinking it was legit. I feel bad for those people, but from what I have heard, they all managed to nip the virus in the bud with no permanent damage. However this whole mess was a major headache, and took the entire day to remedy.
But a funny thing happened once I got over my own initial shock and frustration. I sort of started to enjoy myself. People were calling me who I hadn’t heard from in a long time. Most of them remembered me, and quite a few were past clients. Once I explained the reason for the strange email, I would have a five or so minute “catch up” conversation. I heard about how the kids were, or how their summer was. I heard about remodels and upgrades. There were a few “remember whens” as past clients rehashed the highlights (or lowlights) of past deals, and how we hurtled some roadblocks.
It made me realize how bad I am at keeping these relationships going. Brian Buffini’s entire theology is exactly that. He preaches how important it is to keep these past contacts and clients in your loop or sphere of influence. Many other coaches and business gurus say the same thing. I do Christmas cards and try to send an email or two throughout the year, but life always seems to get in the way, and time marches on.
But in some weird way the hackers did me a favor, and got me back in touch with some people who I really enjoyed working and spending that window of time with.