Sunday, August 24, 2008


Well, this time, it’s a different kind of learning, the kind of learning that happens in an unplanned fashion, and where learning takes place, the hard way.


I was out of town for a few days, wanting to forget all about internet, email, books, and long sits in front of the computer screen. All was well until I received a phone call from someone doing research with me;
‘Hey, where are you? I'm worried about you! We want to help! Where are you?’.
‘What’s the matter?’, said I?
‘We just received a message from you’, was the answer, ‘You’re in Lagos, Nigeria, stranded, and some people have stolen all your money. How can we send you money to come home? My husband and I have been thinking about you all morning. We're making the necessary arrangements to send the money, but we just wanted to check the whole thing.’
I’m right in the area, not of out of Tunisia, visiting family’. I answered.
‘Wow, the person who wrote to us in your name wanted us to send 1650 dollars’
, they answered
‘I’m mighty glad you asked, I’m safe and sound, and haven’t left the country.’, said I.

You think this happens only to other people? We have all received messages from the four corners of the earth with people promising fabulous sums of money, if we just sent some details about identity. Gladly, most of us know this is common occurrence. The day someone hijacks your ID and password and starts writing emails is not far off. In this case, this charlatan just used my standing and reputation to take advantage of my friends and associates. I’m not the kind of person to ask for money from anyone, period, o, wait, except possibly very close family members, and in circumstances that’s only in extremely exceptional circumstances, and I grant you, it hasn’t happened in the last thirteen years. I have a good working relationship with many people in many parts of the world. When one of them is led to believe I am struggling in a foreign country, they would likely want to honor that request when it bears my digital prints. And you tend to appreciate the trust, that the moment some people realized the mess you were in, they would rush to help. That’s a great measure of trust, mutual trust, and under all circumstances, one should appreciate that. Little do these people know that there is always someone watching. Hackers, some of whom are said to be good people, with associations and help-desks for their own kin, are always on the lookout for soft targets. Only this time, they’re not simply hackers; they’re down right criminals, impersonators, impostors, highwaymen of sorts, preying on people who sing and sleep the internet, the joys of open communication, and the promises of an unbounded world.


The lessons to be drawn from this are possibly many. I will leave them out for my next post.