Monday, October 22, 2018

A Fright I Didn’t Need by Leah St. James

Earlier this month I was checking my email when one in particular caught my eye. It was from “Leah” and the subject line said "Your Password Is," followed by an odd combination of numbers and letters....and oddly familiar sequence. In fact, it was one of my many passwords, one so specifically random (if that makes sense), I knew it wasn’t a coincidence. 

My eyes jumped to the text:

It read:
"(My password repeated here) is your passphrase. Lets get right to the point. You don't know me and you are most likely wondering why you're getting this mail? No-one has paid me to check about you.

"actually, I setup a software on the adult videos (adult porn) website and guess what, you visited this site to have fun (you know what I mean). While you were watching videos, your browser initiated operating as a Remote Desktop having a keylogger which provided me access to your display as well as web cam. Just after that, my software obtained all of your contacts from your Messenger, FB, as well as email . And then I made a double video. First part shows the video you were watching (nasty stuff deleted here), and next part shows the recording of your cam, and it is u."
My instant reaction?

I read further. It went on to demand a payment in Bitcoin (like I’d even know how to do that) or else the sender (purportedly from a account) was going to release this video to the world and I would be so shamed and humiliated. I shouldn’t even think about calling “the cop” because they could never find him. (This phisher is apparently very, very smart.)

Of course I knew it was a fake. I don’t visit those sites—not even for research. And I knew there couldn’t be a video of me. I might write some pretty steam stuff, but it’s not autobiographical! Plus, once I heard that creeps can turn on a device’s camera remotely, I pasted a piece of paper over the lens on my laptop.

Still, I panicked. I didn’t know what to do because video or no video, some vile, disgusting so-called person had one of my passwords. I have them all stored in one location, but I use codes/abbreviations that hopefully only I can decipher. (Turns out I needn’t have been so neurotic; that jerk got my password without even entering my home, much less getting his hands on my password file.)

I called Son No. 1 to get on my laptop and check my records. I needed to know which accounts had been potentially jeopardized. Luckily he was home because I was in full melt-down mode.

The first thing he did was read the offensive message.

Son No. 1:  “Mom, this is a known phishing scam. You didn’t send money, did you?”
Me:  Of course not!
Son No. 1: It’s going to be fine.

Then he found the accounts with that password so I could make sure I wasn’t still using that old password. Then I changed the password on the email account. Then I called my website’s host company to make sure no one had hacked into my website (no one had).

The guy there said it was likely a result of one of those giant data breaches where scammers harvest thousands and thousands of passwords and go to work terrorizing half the world with threats of lurid videos and such. The guy told me they just hope to “get lucky” and find someone naive enough to fall for it.


Anyway, it’s been a few weeks and I haven’t seen any such videos purporting to me out there. I have been researching where best to report the email, but to be honest, I found myself in a quagmire of government agencies to the point I’m wondering if any of them are scams! (I’m so neurotic.)

For now, I’m going to try to pay better attention when those data leaks are announced, and I’m going to be more diligent about changing  my passwords more often. (That’s presuming I figure out the dozens and dozens of websites where I’ve had to create passwords.)

It’s a scary world out there. Happy Halloween. Don’t let the phishers get you.


When not freaking out over con artists’ attempts at ruining her life, Leah sometimes makes up stories about other scary stuff, like ghosts. Below is a blurb and excerpt from Adrienne’s Ghost, her paranormal romantic suspense. 


FBI Agent Jackson Yates had never believed in ghosts…until now.

Called to the deepest, darkest basement at FBI Headquarters to investigate the murder of former agent recruit Adrienne Garza, Jack is forced to look beyond the earthly to the spirit world for answers. Shaken by what he finds, he turns to psychologist Rachael Sullivan for help. But just how does Rachael know so much about Adrienne, who disappeared five years earlier? Can her revelations truly be communications from Adrienne herself? And can he get past his guilt over Adrienne’s death to find love with another?

Rachael Sullivan has spent her adult years seeking knowledge of life after death. She’s focused those years on helping those stricken with the grief, but when she receives messages from beyond the grave, messages that seem to point to the identity of Adrienne’s killer, she is compelled to follow the trail.

As the slain woman’s spirit reveals more and more of her killer, and of her past with investigating agent Jackson Yates, Rachael wonders if the clues are leading her to love, or to death. Drawn together by forces beyond their control, beyond their comprehension, together they seek a killer. Together they encounter…Adrienne’s Ghost.

~~ Excerpt ~~

Rachael set the journals on the table and sorted through the pile until she found the one that began during Adrienne’s high school years, figuring it would be a good place to start. Before she could sit, the diary dropped from her hand and fell to the floor. Tsking at her clumsiness, she retrieved the book, resettled herself into the sofa’s cushions, and turned back to page one. Again the book landed on the floor, but this time it somersaulted through the air, as though it had been propelled by a force.
The surface of her skin beginning to prickle, Rachael stood and scanned the room, to search for the source of an energy strong enough, other-worldly enough to have caused what she’d witnessed. But the room was empty. Or maybe it only seemed empty because she couldn’t see whatever life forces might be hiding just beyond the realm of her comprehension.

Still, she felt like an idiot when she retrieved the diary from the floor, then deliberately closed it and set it on the coffee table, as if she no longer had any interest in the secrets it held. She wondered if the night of passion had scrambled her brains when she sat back to watch, her fingers crossed.

It wasn’t long before her hunch paid off. The journal on top of the pile began to tremble, then buck. Fascinated, Rachael trained her eyes on the book, and as its movements became more frenzied, her heart raced to match its pace. Within a few seconds, the book had somehow shimmied itself forward so it teetered on the edge of the pile, like it needed no more than a tiny nudge to take the plunge.

Debating if she was supposed to provide that nudge, Rachael reached forward, and in that instant a shadowy image materialized inches away from the tips of her fingers. She jolted and snatched her arm back as the shadow transformed into a shape. It was a hand, only a hand, like someone was reaching through a split in some cosmic curtain that separated two dimensions. A shriek whipped up Rachael’s throat, and she slapped both hands to her mouth to stuff it back down. Scrambling backward, she found herself pressed against the couch, ready to run, when the ghostly fingers prodded the diary.

It tumbled over the table’s edge, landing with a thunk, and Rachael dropped to her knees, inhaling one choppy breath after another until her lungs could take no more. She was paralyzed, mesmerized, watching the hand where it hovered over the open book, less than a foot away. The fingernails, ragged and torn, were dirty and stained with smears of what looked like blood. They waggled suddenly, and the pages of the book began to flutter, making the sound of a hundred birds in flight. The air Rachael had been holding expelled in a burst, and her lungs refilled on another giant breath. But before she could scream, the humming from the FBI’s basement, that heartbeat-like pulse, saturated the air.

She didn’t realize she’d scrambled to her feet and retreated until the backs of her legs hit the edge of the sofa. As her muscles gave way to fear, she sagged onto the cushions and watched as Adrienne formed in front of her eyes. Only this time, the ghost didn’t look sad, she looked angry. Angry with Rachael.


Available in Kindle or Kindle Unlimited.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Yikes!! What a powerful excerpt. Way to go, Leah, setting the tone with your first scary story. What a bunch of jerks! Your Son No. 1 sounds a lot like my Son No. 2. "It's going to be fine. Just change your passwords." The truth is, we shouldn't have to. Jerks!! Or as you said - Sickos. But back to your book. Sounds wonderfully creepy. And a cover to 'die' for. LOL. Best of luck with all of it, defeating the sickos and spreading the word about Adrienne's Ghost.

Andrea Downing said...

I’ve heard of these porn phishes but not experienced it—yet. When I go through my spam checking for good people who’ve been misplaced there I’m appalled st the vast world of conmen. Chin up and keep writing, friend!

Renci Denham said...

That is SCARY!!!!! Sorry you had to deal with all the government agencies...

Jannine Gallant said...

Other people have mentioned this scam on Facebook. Does anyone fall for it and send money? Doubtful. All it succeeds in doing is stressing people out! Great excerpt!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Oh my gosh. It would be funny if it wasn't so scary. These hackers are weird in that they want to disrupt and frighten. Like Jannine says, they can't make enough to make it a financial success. But they can't "see" us panic so that makes them doubly sick. Your book sounds fantastic!

Alison Henderson said...

Although that hasn't happened to me (yet), I have a number of other friends who have been hit by that same phishing scam. Un-freaking-believable. And so infuriating. Even though you know it's a scam and they couldn't possibly go through with their threats, it's still impossible not to be upset and frightened. Your privacy has been massively invaded by some criminal pinhead somewhere. Grrr.

Diane Burton said...

What a scare! I'm so sorry you had to go through that. What creeps!!! Thank goodness for your son who could ease your mind. I guess the takeaway for me is to change passwords often, esp. after we hear about a breach. Meanwhile, hugs.

I read Adrienne's Ghost before I ever "met" you, Leah. I loved that story.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Oh, my! Horrible experience, Leah! I'm so glad you had someone to reassure you. I get the translator people asking for money...and some suspicious other stuff, but you really got slammed. Have a glass of wine!

Leah St. James said...

Thank you, Margo! Glad you enjoyed. I appreciate the kind words. :-)

Leah St. James said...

Thanks, Andi. I wil. I'm fortunate it was just an annoying email.

Leah St. James said...

You are too funny, Renci. Thanks for stopping by.

Leah St. James said...

It sure stressed me out! Unfortunately, I think there are some here and there who get sucked into these scams. I suppose the overhead is low enough that any payback is profit.

Leah St. James said...

Looking back, the threat is pretty comical, Brenda. I was freaked out mostly because of the password. It's so invasive.

Leah St. James said...

"Criminal pinhead": I like that, Alison! :-)

Leah St. James said...

Thank you, Diane, That means so much to me! And yeah, I definitely need to up my password maintenance!

Leah St. James said...

Me too, Rolynn. If my son hadn't been so calm, I would have left work to mess with ...the mess. :-) He was a huge help. I was lucky!

remullins said...

Electronic management is one of the best reasons to have children. By the time he was 2, son#2 was accessing the computer to play his 101 Dalmatian game. More recently, son#1 has steered me clear of a couple of scams. Hooray for tech savvy kids that use their mad skills for good.

Diane Garner said...

Truly scary stuff. Thanks for sharing. BTW, I also have paper over my camera lens. Hubby says I'm paranoid. Sometimes I think I should take it off and let anyone who dares to spy on me get the scare of his life.

Leah St. James said...

So, so true, Robin! Son No. 2 does all my book formatting and helps me with my website. :-)

Leah St. James said...

I keep expecting the sicko creeps to figure out how to penetrate all those pieces of paper! :-)