I noticed we had a voice mail waiting for us on our house phone the other morning when I got out of bed. It was from a friend I hadn't talked to in quite a while. He was calling to make sure we were alright, because he was concerned about an email he had gotten that said it was from me.
The subject line read "Sad news for Douglass Dezotell."
My friend didn't think that I spelled my first name with 2 s's, so he thought that was odd. He was right there is only one "s" in Douglas.
He sent me a copy of the note he had received.
The body of the email read, "I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, my fam and I came down here to MADRID, SPAIN for a short vacation unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed, all cash, credit card and mobile phone were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us. We've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in less than 3hrs from now but the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills. Am freaked out at the moment. Douglass."
My immediate response was, "I write better than that, don't I?"
After some investigation, I soon realized that my email account had been hacked, and someone had sent this message to most of the people on my contact list.
Before the day progressed any further, I received emails from friends who had gotten the same message, and others called to make sure we were okay.
A friend in Michigan later told me that she and her husband were ready to pack their suitcases and head to Tennessee when they read "Sad news for Douglass Dezotell." But, they then realized it was a scam as they read on in the email.
Someone told me that I should let everyone on my contact list know that my email account had been compromised. I tried to do that but my contact list was no longer there. That had been taken over by whoever had broken into my account. And all of my saved emails, four years' worth, had been taken as well.
I didn't understand what was going on.
So I posted a message on Facebook letting my friends know what had happened. I soon received messages back from Facebook friends letting me know that I wasn't the only one who had experienced something like this.
A cousin in Wisconsin had something similar happen to here several months ago.
My brother in South Dakota had this happen to him last year. He was supposedly mugged somewhere in the Mediterranean.
A friend in Florida let me know he had experienced something like this a while back, and he called this act or misdeed "phishing."
I am not very tech-savvy, to say the least, so I googled that word, "phishing," and what I found out sure sounded like what had happened to me.
But, I don't understand if I had been "phished," or if someone went "phishing" on my account, or even what exactly a "phish" is.
This is all new territory for me.
Someone suggested I contact Yahoo, the company I have my email account with and talk to a person in Tech Support. So I went to Google once again, and entered "How do I contact someone at Yahoo?"
I soon found a number for Tech Support, and it wasn't long and I was talking to a gentleman who assured me he could help me. I had difficulty understanding his accent at first, and he probably felt the same way about me. He was in India and here I am in Tennessee, and he was willing to help me get this thing straightened out from the other side of the world.
We spent the better part of the afternoon talking about stuff I didn't understand as he worked on fixing my problem on my computer here in Shelbyville from his computer there in Delhi.
Supposedly the problems that had been inserted on my computer through this "phishing trip" have been taken care of.
Later that day, I made a visit to my bank to make sure nothing with my accounts had been compromised and I made some changes there.
That evening, I thanked the Lord for a new experience; an adventure really. And then, I took something for my headache.
-- Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at email@example.com.