Phishing Expedition by
(354 Stories)

Prompted By Hacked!

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

Just a few weeks ago, a good friend put a warning on his Facebook page: “Do not accept any friend requests from me; I’ve been hacked!” This is unfortunate but routine these days. The Messenger app of Facebook is notorious for this (and many people no longer use it because once it is corrupted, your entire friend list has also been hacked). I know to not open any link from a friend that reads, “look who died”, or “is this you in the photo?” Always a scam and once the link is open, you are cooked.

I can’t begin to tell you how many emails or texts I get like the Featured photo. The only problem is I never use PayPal, so I know it is fraud.

I had to ask my husband about this one. I get it all the time (of course, I’ve never given out my credit card, so I don’t know how they are going to charge us). My husband points out that we only have Apple computers which do NOT use Norton anti-virus products – another scam! These now go into the spam folder immediately.

A few years ago, I lost my Instagram account. There was a message that I had violated their terms and gave me specific things I could do to recover the account. This made NO sense to me at all, since I only post family photos. I was given a 5 digit code and instructed to write on a piece of paper the name I use on Facebook (interesting that there was an assumption that I HAD a FB account), that 5 digit code, and my Instagram account name, then take a selfie holding this paper with part of my hand showing and post it to the account I was given. I did all of this, assuming that whomever I was communicating with already knew all this information through Instagram and Facebook. I was told I would hear back within 24 hours. After a few days, I gave up and opened a new Instagram account with a new name, then texted or emailed people to please accept me as their “friend” since my account had been shut down and please follow me back (though I suspect it had actually been hacked).

Last winter I had a weird credit card scam situation, which I was able to resolve (and got a new credit card). It is a convoluted story regarding making a service appointment for my car through a phone number ON MY cell phone, but at least it was all eventually resolved with no lasting damage. One has to be very alert and wary these days.

Anyone else NOT buying Bitcoin through PayPal? I got this email on July 5…right into the spam folder after taking a screenshot to include in this story. I have gotten it at least three more times since then.


How annoying is this? And scary that so many scammers have my email address. Am I right?

Seeing on the news that former senator and basketball Hall of Famer Bill Bradley turned 80 yesterday reminded me of a time when I almost fell for that old “Nigerian prince” scam. The great Carl Belz, Director of the Rose Art Museum for 24 years, my friend and mentor then and for years after his retirement, had been a championship basketball legend in his days at Princeton. He was just a bit older than Bradley, but was working on his PhD there, playing semi-pro ball and practicing at Princeton, so got to know Bradley well; they became lifelong friends. Bradley and his wife donated a valuable painting in Carl’s honor to the Rose (it is on view now) and sent a letter to be read at his retirement party (which I had the honor of reading).

We remained close friends for the remainder of his life despite various challenges he faced. Carl had health problems at the end of life and had his left leg amputated below the knee. So it surprised me when I awoke one morning to a desperate email, saying he had suddenly traveled to Spain but his wallet was stolen and he had no money, could I please send money quickly. My first impulse was of course to come to the aid of my good friend. But I hesitated for a moment and thought logically. Getting around was not easy for Carl. It seemed unlikely. I called him. His world was topsy-turvy. Of course he was not in Spain! His email had been hacked, but some people HAD sent money in response to that email, including Senator Bradley’s office (the Senator was actually traveling and had not verified with Carl the veracity of the claim).

Scams are too easy to pull off. Verify first and be wary!



Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: been there, funny, well written


  1. Yep Betsy , you are right!

    I’m finally learning to report all such emails as phishing scams and to delete them. The Internet scammers out there are pretty smart and getting smarter!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I am doing the same, Dana. And if you go back and take a second look, while watching a sports show last night, I was reminded of another scam that happened to the former director of the Rose (who died in 2016) that I almost fell for, but Senator Bill Bradley’s office DID fall for. I just added that story.

      • Went back and read it Betsy.
        Yes, that’s a scam I’ve seen, but I’ve learned to be a bit wiser since I was so horribly scammed!

        • Betsy Pfau says:

          Good to be wary, Dana. The scammer who hacked Carl got his email and Facebook accounts. It was a real nightmare for him and, since he had such a large, valuable contact list (he knew top curators and artists around the world), many people gave money before thinking the whole thing through.

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    Sad to say we have to be suspicious of everything online. Since no one answers the phone anymore, maybe fewer phone scams. Nice story about the Rose however.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I definitely don’t answer my landline any longer (there are two people who call me on it – one back in Newton and one here on Martha’s Vineyard; I’m trying to convince the Vineyard friend not to use the landline, but she has it memorized. At least she will text).

      Carl Belz was an amazing person. If “mentor” comes up as a prompt again, I’ll write more about him. In addition to being a brilliant art historian, he wrote a definitive history of Rock and Roll while living in the Bay Area before coming east. Really interesting guy.

  3. Dave Ventre says:

    I once had the widow of the late Nigerian Oil Minister agree that, after I helped her to liberate millions of dollars that her ex had hidden in an offshore account before being deposed, she and I would meet to discuss Jesus and possibly get married. She seemed to like me….

    In an odd coincidence, I actually went to grad school with the son of a real Nigerian government minister!

    It was before computer scams, but long ago I learned that my grandmother was sending large sums of money to one or more televangelists. I THINK I managed to convince her that they were not Godly men.

  4. Dear Betsy:
    Your story is so detailed–so much so it is frightening. It does put my own experience in perspective–I mean it calms me down and brings me back from the edge of anger. For instance, I had uploaded you tube to find a free recording of Bartok Piano Sonata for two pianos and percussion. My experience made Bartok’s percussion sound almost mute.
    As soon as I downloaded I found out I was hacked. I checked with google. The sever was run out of Texas or Florida with a company from China. The screen went black. After a repair technician spent 5 or 6 hours, I got my computer screen open.
    Why cannot the government use google too. And squash the hackers and phishers.? Oh, that is right. We do not like government regulation.
    Oops, I am beginning to sound like Bartok’s sonata.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      What an awful story, Richard! But it will make me more wary when I look at things on YouTube (which I do often – as perhaps you’ve noticed, I have linked to two songs recently and do again in an upcoming story; but these are old songs, and they seemed pretty harmless).

  5. Betsy: After reading these stories, I thought a great research project would be to write an index of all the known existing hacking engagements.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Like you, I have become very suspicious of attempts to get me to pay for things I never ordered, especially if they involve PayPal, which I never use. I have a folder on my computer for phishing emails, just in case they turn out to be real. They never do,

  7. pattyv says:

    Betsy, it is sickening how much we gotta dodge. With AI it’s going to be worse. How sad these hackers continue to grow in numbers. When it becomes personal, like your dear friendship with Carl, we almost react without thinking. I feel for everyone who gets caught in these horrific scams .

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      The bots and scammers are everywhere, Patty. AI will make them slicker, more difficult to ascertain what’s real and what’s not, so we need to be more cautious and circumspect, for sure. What happened to Carl was awful, and caught up many of his unsuspecting friends. It took him a long time to unravel it all, but it merely cost some people some money. At least Carl wasn’t the subject of identity theft. That is truly hideous.

Leave a Reply