We’ve Been Cyber-Hacked!

(Pnina and I are pretty far behind in our blog.  The last post was from Malawi.  Since then we traveled back to Zambia, then to Kenya, Uganda, and now Rwanda.  It’ll take us a while to write about all our adventures in those places.  But in the meantime we have this urgent post, so here goes…)

Pnina and I have been cyber-hacked!  Someone stole the passwords of our gmail accounts and used them to send emails to some of our contacts claiming that we are in trouble and that we need help.  What kind of help?  About $1200 sent via Western Union.  This is all bullshit.  Pnina and I are totally fine.  We have all our belongings with us – nobody stole our money or bags or anything like that.

We know that Pnina’s sister and my dad got these scam emails.  We’re not sure who else got them.  If you also got such an email, please ignore it and accept our appology for the hassle.

At the moment our gmail accounts have been shut down.  We are going to try to resurrect them but we don’t know if it’s possible or how long it’ll take.  In the meantime we created a new temporary email account.  If you want to know it, talk to Devorah or Adi.  If you don’t know their contact info, well, sorry.

This just goes to show how important it is to protect your cyber identity when traveling abroad.  Pnina and I made sure not to visit suspicious websites and we made sure to always log out before leaving an internet cafe.  However, the computers in these internet cafes are not always locked down as much as they should be.  One of these computers could have had some malware installed by the people who run the cafe or by some other visitor.  The last time we successfully logged in was in Masindi, Uganda (in a place called Traveler’s Cafe).  It’s possible that this was the place where we got hacked.  It’s also possible that we got hacked earlier in some other place, and that the scammers waited a bit before sending the bogus emails.  We’re not sure.

For the record, here’s the email chain between “Pnina” (the hackers) and her sister Devorah.  Notice that the emails from “Pnina” are filled with spelling mistakes (pretty funny actually) which is why Devorah realized immediately that it’s a scam.

From: (“Pnina”)
Subject: Re: Fidelity
To: (Devorah)
Date: Saturday, December 6, 2008, 6:28 AM

Me and Shahaf and in trouble, robbers attacked as last night and tooks out belongings. He actucally have nothing at the moment , I would like you to help us and send $ 1200 through western union cause its the only way we can get help from out here . ATM’s here can’t acept our visa cards. Please its really urgent. I am really so sorry for bothering you guys like that but trust me this is really beyond us.
Don’t get so worried al is going to be fine .

(From Devorah)

On Sat, Dec 6, 2008 at 9:14 PM, D S wrote:
Dear Shahaf & Pnina,

Here is an email that I received that I do not believe that you sent, so I just wanted you to know that someone has been able to get into your email and try and scam people for money. This is the second such email that I got, the other one was sent from Pnina’s email.
I hope all is well with you, and that you continue having a great time,

Love, and miss you,


(From “Shahaf” or “Pnina”, we’re not sure which)

Please am really so sorry for the confusion but that was me and Pnina who sent that mail. I know it does sound funny but trust me , we are in trouble out here . We need you urgent responce to our request. pnina is the one who sent it please.

(and, finally, from Devorah to the real us via another communication channel)

Dear Shahaf and Pnina,

Call your parents ASAP.

Both your emails have been corrupted and we all have been getting emails such as the following text sent from both your account. There is no way that either of you would write such an email, but we would really like to hear from you and make sure that you both are doing OK.

Love and worried,


10 responses to “We’ve Been Cyber-Hacked!

  1. wow shahaf! i know that it must be such a pain to have to shut down your e-mail, not to mention what a worry to your friends and family! but i have to say, those scam artists are pretty amusing. ;p hope you get things worked out quickly. can’t wait to hear more about Africa; especially Kenya, since it’s the only place i’ve been on your journey and i can’t wait to be able to actually envision your surroundings. hope you’re having a fun and safe trip!

  2. Thank goodness all is well!

  3. That’s crazy! As you said, the actually messages are pretty humorous… but I’m sure it’s a frustrating thing to have to deal with. Neither Sarah nor I got messages from you like that, so I bet the are just targetting people who appear to be your family. Hope everything else is going well!

    Wesley and Buttercup say “hi.”

  4. Ugh!! So sorry that this happened, but so thankful that it was caught and that no-one actually got scammed. Hopefully this is the worst that you’ll face along your epic journey 🙂 All our love, and can’t wait to keep hearing about all your adventures!

  5. Jasmine Khambatta

    Been in touch with your dad Shahaf, glad to hear everything OK. Living vicariously through your adventures. Miss you both!

  6. I’m sorry you guys had to endure this episode! Hopefully a minor blip on what has otherwise looked like a magnificent adventure so far 😉 Thoroughly enjoying the amusing and enlightening running commentary. Ever thought of producing documentaries??

  7. Nothing like a little adventure on top of the rest of the adventures! Good to hear that you are doing well — keep it up =D.

    Also, there are numerous ways to attack gmail accounts that don’t necessarily involve having access to the computer you’re on (although that would be the easiest way for sure.) Good luck & stay safe!

  8. Hi there, (where ever you are!)
    Merry Xmas from a cold Holland, but not as cold as Seattle. (a few times on tv here,a lot of snow !)
    Did you climb the Kilimanjaro?
    I booked my next trip to N/aankuse Wildlife in Namibia.They have lions,(tame) cheetahs,baboons, caracals an a lot of other animals. I will go there on the 4th of march and stay for 3,5 weeks. Maybe 2 weeks working and 1 weeks travelling around.
    Hope to hear from you,

  9. Pingback: Rwanda « Honeysun

  10. Pingback: Adi & Suzy Arrive « Honeysun

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