Norwich church rector red-faced as scam hijacks her e-mail account

| September 25, 2009

The e-mail from the Rev. Trish Cunningham reads like a simple request for help.

”I am sorry I didn’t inform you about my traveling to England for a Seminar..,” the e-mail states. “I misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money,and other valuable things were kept I will like you to assist me with a soft loan urgently.”

Besides the grammar and language mistakes, there was another problem with the e-mail.

Cunningham, the interim rector of the Christ Episcopal Church in Norwich, didn’t send it.

A person was able to access Cunningham’s e-mail account and sent the note to nearly everyone on her e-mail list. That’s about 1,200 people, Cunningham estimated.

”It’s been really embarrassing,” Cunningham said. “People have called thinking I’ve been held hostage in England and was forced to send this message. It’s been crazy. I’ve had lots of phone calls and e-mails from people.”

Cunningham, who was first alerted to the e-mail by her daughter, who called her about 6:30 a.m. Thursday, said she was thankful no one seemed to have wired money, like the e-mail requested.

She believes the person was able to access her account when she provided her e-mail login and password to what she thought was a request from Google customer service.

On Thursday, Cunningham notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the incident and they took her information, she said.

Although she said she was embarrassed, Cunningham is not alone.

In 2008, 275,284 online fraud complaints were filed with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. That number was up from about 207,000 complaints filed in 2007.

The total monetary loss linked to online fraud in 2008 was $265 million, according to the crime center.

Although she can now laugh at the situation, Cunningham doesn’t want anyone to have the scare she had, or worse.

”The word’s got to get out there so people can know how easily this can happen,” she said.

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Category: Church Security

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