Within the blink of an eye Stan Bransby lost all the data he had built up over the years on his computer. Hackers had somehow managed to get into his computer accounts and using his e-mail address, appealed for help from Scotland, where Stan was apparently stranded after being mugged and robbed of all his cash, bank cards and cellphone and desperately in need of aid to get back to SA.
"The plot thickens with irony," says Stan. "I was supposedly mugged - but if all my belongings were taken, how would I be able to e-mail people from my computer?"
The first to hear of this was Tanya Watson, who works for the George Herald. Concerned of his plight she immediately e-mailed him, and then more e-mails started streaming in – all from friends concerned of his predicament.
"Only then did I smell a rat, but by the time I had checked my computer it was too late. Everything I had built up over the years was gone – my computer was an empty shell – all my data bases were gone. I tried to contact gmail and Google but they were not co-operative or helpful at all. And it doesn't help changing your password – the hackers just change it back again. Thankfully I don't do internet banking or they would have emptied my accounts too."
Stan Googled the physical address where he was supposedly stranded and it does actually exist in Scotland, but the hackers could just as well be operating from Shanghai or New York.
This is a real setback for Stan, who had been planning a 40-day marathon in his wheelchair with his son Wesley from Durban to Cape Town in December. "All my contacts are gone. I'll have to start from scratch all over again. The sad thing is I know I'll never get it all back. The hackers were arrogant enough to allow me reopen my files, which are all empty."
The same fate hit businessman Jacques Terblanche of Ton's Cycles.
People are urged to never give personal information over the internet – whether it's Google, your service provider or bank that wants to update their data under threat of closing your account, delete and junk mail the request immediately. And don't believe those lotto's everyone is winning every week – hackers are working tirelessly and setting up new schemes to rid you of information and ultimately your hard earned cash.
By Leon Nell