The Silver Lining to Phishing

6 years ago

A little while back, I was signing up for a social media site and it asked if I wanted to import my address book. I did, since I wanted to see who was already on the site. Then it asked if I wanted to send an invitation to my address book. My usual answer is no, but on this occasion, I was hurrying and not paying attention as I hit the wrong button and inadvertently sent out an invitation to the site to over 4000 contacts.

Gmail will not let you send an email to 4000 people at once. Instead, I had to wait as many of the 4000 people contacted me to send back an apology and explanation for why they had suddenly heard from me out of the blue about a social media site, no less. A bunch of the emails were curt, "I really hate it when people do this" messages, but some were the online equivalent of the neighbourhood all coming outside after a huge snow storm.

On a regular day, our neighbours barely nod a greeting at one another. But after a snow storm, we all stand outside talking. I'll make hot chocolate for the kids and end up bringing it out to our neighbours shoveling their walks. We catch up with one another and wonder aloud why we don't make the time to see each other on a normal day.

And that's what tends to happen after big social media signup mistakes or when your account gets hacked and everyone ends up with a message from "you" begging for money because your wallet got stolen in "London." People come out of the woodwork, suddenly remembering that you exist. I had a friend write back and tell me about his new daughter, and we additionally became friends on Facebook so I could see pictures. I had a bunch of emails that started out about the social media gaffe, but then continued with, "while I have your ear..." and went off on another topic. And then there were the people who simply wrote back, "Mel! What have you been up to? I haven't seen you in forever."

Heather, the Life section editor here on BlogHer, recently wrote me about her friend going through the same thing. Her account was hacked, sent out a spam message, and in return, she connected with tons of people who had slipped through the cracks over the years. As her friend told her in an email: "Phishers should play up the positive aspects of hacked email accounts. A little positive PR could really go a long way."

So the next time you're moaning about being the victim of a phishing scam, or accidentally hitting the wrong button during an account signup, think about all the people you're going to get to remember exist. And use it as a chance to catch up.

Photo Credit: RambergMediaImages.

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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