Are you ready for the holiday scammers? Are the hackers going to get the password to your favorite shopping website from you to buy whatever they want at your expense? Or will they steal your cyber-identity and proceed to send their messages out over your IP signature? If you were a responsibly functioning IT Department of a large government organization, how would you raise awareness that this is the season to be suspicious and practically paranoid, while practicing safe internetting?

Kudos to Newton’s Joe Mulvey for figuring out a way to show those of us with addresses how vulnerable we are! (If you are wondering, I have a email address since I am an elected member of the Waban Area Council.) This morning I got an email message indicating that my email address had been hacked by someone in China and urging me to change my password to that account immediately. A link to change the password was a prominent part of the message.

That icky feeling swept over me, making me feel guilty for something I hadn’t done. I nearly took the bait.  As I was about to fall victim by clicking on the “change password” link, I swirled around and asked my personal IT guru and husband of 54 years whether he thought this was for real or was a “spoof”. He said go to your email address on the City website and change your password there and DON’T click on the link provided in the email.

So I went to the City’s Microsoft website, but somehow wasn’t able to change my password and was instructed to contact the administrator of the account. I then called Joe Mulvey, Director of Newton’s IT Department and told him what had happened and asked him to change my account password.

Although he didn’t laugh at me, I am sure that I heard him smile as he explained that this was a deliberate and planned exercise to raise awareness in the public that the holidays are prime time for phishing schemes and that we should be super sensitive to the possibility of being hooked. That’s responsible governing!