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With less than an hour to finish a documentary I was working on, my fingers were flying over my keyboard as I wrestled with the script, phone calls and emails with a researcher abroad while watching multiple TV screens in the cutting room and talking simultaneously to people around me.Suddenly an alarming email popped into my Yahoo mailbox from Yahoo itself, saying my account was about to be shut down unless I confirmed all my details with them.Finally on Monday, three days later, smooth-sounding Jessica from 'the Yahoo concierge service' called to help me get back into my account and reassure me that Yahoo took such violations very seriously.She would not be drawn on who might be responsible at Yahoo for stopping hackers.Phishing refers to electronic bait put out by criminals to catch financial information and carry out fraud by using your computer passwords.Within seconds of pressing that enter key, a message written by the hackers but under my name went out to everyone in the computerised address book attached to my email account.The same email and text was sent out in my name to nearly 1,000 people all over the world.'I am in a critical situation in Madrid' the emails said, 'all my money got stolen in the hotel where I lodged due to a robbery incident - I want you to help me with a loan of 1,500 pounds'.
Incredibly, people do respond to these emails asking for money, and lose thousands of pounds.
My life was in chaos as calls continued round the clock from Afghanistan and India, from Africa and Washington, from anxious friends and people I knew as a journalist working internationally. I could not raise anyone at Yahoo - there were no phone numbers listed and my electronic pleas for help on their website disappeared into the black hole of cyberspace.
Several Army and security people joked that they might have believed the email if it said the Taleban had kidnapped me in Kandahar. Just before midnight I unearthed a 'corporate public relations' phone number somewhere in California where it was still office hours.
outlook.com, mail.google.com, mail.yahoo.com, facebook.com, Linked In, twitter.com, ru, orange.fr, IBM / Lotus Notes, IBM i Notes, mail.virgilio.it, O2.pl, Yandex, Laposte.net, and com are supported.
Seven at night on the Friday before Christmas and I was rushing to meet a deadline.