I was in my early twenties when my second apartment got broken into. My insurance career was in its infancy, and my meager, post-college earnings meant a limited allowance for household and leisure purchases. I imagine my thief was sorely disappointed to discover an old-ish television with somebody else’s social security number engraved on it (remember when the SSN was used for so many different forms of identification?) which I had purchased from a pawn shop, a dusty, three-tray CD player, and pretty much nothing worth the trouble of breaking into my little efficiency and risking getting caught. There wasn’t even any half-decent alcohol. Aside from not being able to watch TV or listen to music that night, the absolute worst thing about it was feeling like my own personal space and belongings had been violated. There wouldn’t have been enough sage in the entire city to purify the funk of that experience, for weeks afterward.
Just over one week ago, I was a victim of a phishing scheme on social media. I’m sharing the details here in the hope that I may save someone else the trouble. I’ll beat some commenters to the punch who may tell me my actions were ill-advised, as I came to that conclusion right away. Some mistakes need to be made only once, so you’re welcome. Basically, I had received a message from a contact’s account, someone I liked and trusted, asking me for my phone number. She (or I had thought it was her) had written that she had gotten a new phone and she needed my help with being able to log back onto her social media account. She and I hadn’t seen each other since she had moved out of state a few years ago, so I figured I’d help out to show her I was still her friend.
I sent her my number, and she then had a code sent back to me, asking me to click on it for verification, which would enable her to access her social media account from her new device. I asked her if it was really her, and joked that I hoped I wasn’t allowing someone to hack into her account. The ironic response was an “LOL” with some other things that sounded like my friend. My contact’s hacker had even attempted to text using language like hers, likely obtained by scanning her old messages.
What I ended up doing by clicking on that link was authenticating that I had given some unknown person permission to access my account, where said person promptly changed the e-mail address associated with my account to a newly-minted e-mail address which wasn’t mine. They then deleted my old e-mail address and phone number from my profile so I could no longer retrieve or access my page using the normal retrieval methods. This all happened within only a few, short minutes, though I realized almost instantly what had happened.
I had lost complete control of my account, and the hacker went through my contact list and apparently had started messaging my contacts with the same ploy. There was a happy ending of sorts, where I was able to work with the platform to verify my identity (a process I had to go through twice, because my hacker was both clever and quick), regain control, and very quickly disable any access the hacker had to my account. This was not before damage was done. The hacker had already tricked at least one of my contacts, using my identity, and then hijacked that person’s account at a most unfortunate time for her. (I’ll concede that there is probably never a good time for something like this to happen.)
These two forms of theft, residential and cyber, also made me think of car theft, and of this Jaguar from around the turn of the millennium that I had spotted in an abandoned lot almost ten years ago. At its introduction in 1999 as a 2000 model, the S-Type was the entry-level Jaguar for just one year before the smaller X-Type arrived for 2001. The S-Type was based on the same Ford DEW98 platform that underpinned the Lincoln LS and reborn Thunderbird. From the taillamps and rear fascia, this example was from its original iteration before the slight restyle that arrived for ’04.
The “3.0” badge on the trunk indicates it was powered by the 241-horsepower V6 that was the base engine in the U.S. (A 2.5L V6 with 194 horses was standard in other markets.) A 281-hp V8 displacing 4.0 liters was also available. A five-speed automatic transmission was standard on the S-Type, though the related Lincoln LS could be had with a Getrag five-speed manual from 2000 through ’02 (which had a very low take rate of just over 2,300 cars). Just over 291,000 S-Types were produced over nine model years. I couldn’t help but feel pathos when looking at this example. Here was this imported luxury sedan, once cherished and now stolen, sitting stripped of its wheels, one block away from a major General Motors factory that stands next to a busy expressway.
General Motors Flint Assembly truck plant, across the street from the unfortunate Jaguar.
As with both incidents involving my social media account and my second apartment, the thing I struggled with the most immediately afterward was that both spaces seemed really unclean, as if there was nothing that could really bring back their innocence or the sense that I was safe there. Things take time, and I did eventually feel safe again in my apartment before eventually moving within the span of a year. As far as this Jaguar, it was almost a decade old by the time I found this dead cat sitting abandoned in the parking lot of a long-demolished lounge. By its otherwise nice condition both inside and out, it looked like it had been well cared for as what might have been somebody’s regular ride. Curbside readers, please take this as my public service announcement to review your own cyber security. Do it this week. If you’re like me and tend to want to help people, a little extra measure of healthy skepticism will probably be understood by those who really matter. Don’t get hacked into like me or this sad Jaguar.
Friday, February 15, 2013.