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Be forewarned: We’re all in season when it comes to online ‘phishing’ scams | READER COMMENTARY

The Maryland Transportation Authority warned in 2019 that several emails similar to this one were sent out asking E-Zpass customers to pay their toll debts online. The communications were phony and part of a phishing scam. (Capital Gazette Photo)
The Maryland Transportation Authority warned in 2019 that several emails similar to this one were sent out asking E-Zpass customers to pay their toll debts online. The communications were phony and part of a phishing scam. (Capital Gazette Photo) (Courtesy photo, Capital Gazette)

It was a lovely Monday morning, fresh and bright, and I was attending to a quick task at my desk when the phone rang. It was my favorite nephew who said he got my email but decided to call. Email? That was puzzling, but catching up consumed us for the next half-hour. During the conversation, several phone calls came in — I could hear them. At one point, my husband said I had a call on my cellphone upstairs. He came down a few minutes later and handed me a note saying that three more calls had come in.

So many calls. What could that be about?

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Oh yeah, back to that email my nephew had received. When he described it, I realized it was a phishing scam. A couple weeks ago, I had received a similar email from a from a former colleague at Maryland Institute College of Art (”Cyber crimes, phishing scams on the rise with more people working from home during coronavirus pandemic,” May 11, 2020).

I hung up and all hell broke loose. I had calls and messages on the landline. I had calls and texts on the cell. Posts and messages on Facebook were piling up.

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The people contacting me were friends, acquaintances, relatives and, in one case, a person I hadn’t seen or spoken to since we graduated from high school more than 50 years ago. Apparently, the current head of that school also got a message. She asked a member of the development department to check on me — and he found he had an email, too. That was good for a laugh as normally the letters begging for donations go the other way around.

The business partner of my brother called. A second cousin called my brother because she couldn’t get hold of me. He’d gotten one too. My financial adviser called. The guy who handles trade-ins at the car dealership called. An artist friend called from Western Massachusetts. A dear friend who shares a surname but no DNA with my husband messaged from Lithuania. I just hung up after a chat with a classmate of my husband (Aberdeen High School Class of 1951).

I stopped counting when the expressions of concern surpassed two dozen.

There is always a silver lining though. Nearly all of these people were truly worried about me — as well as the security of my online presence. So I’m feeling all warm and fuzzy.

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On the other hand, the one communication I didn’t receive was from a client from whom I was expecting materials needed for a project just getting underway. I am going to be seriously upset if that damnable scam lost me a job.

The September morning I thought I would be spending weeding the garden quickly became a day struggling to change passwords. Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter. Verizon. Google. MICA.

I don’t open attachments I am not expecting. I don’t click on anything if I am not absolutely sure about it. Clearly, however, I did something wrong at some point. Did some virulently infectious email come through that I did not recognize? Maybe the problem has to do with passwords that are insufficiently complicated and more than six months old. Who knows?

But best to blockade that superhighway paved with silicon that provides access to all you are and all you do.

Ellen B. Cutler, Aberdeen

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