Saturday, July 4, 2020
What a Strange (Quarantine)
Season This has Been
Today may be an American holiday—happy Fourth of July!—but with vestiges of the pandemic quarantine still holding life hostage, it hardly seems like a time to freely celebrate. Our family will likely resort to our top secret vista tonight, far from the maddening crowds, to view the illegal but inevitable fireworks displays—keeping a prudent six feet of social distance, mind you—and call it good for holiday celebrating.
Meanwhile, all sorts of other events are swirling around the unsuspecting observer of life. I cannot begin to count the number of times I've received unsolicited texts from spammers, attempting to grab my attention with descriptions better suited for unattached men on the prowl than happily married women. Thankfully, our phone service provider found a way to effectively nip the erupting epidemic of phone spamming in its cancerous bud early on this spring, yielding us one form of peace. But don't think that reprieve extended to email spam or phishing expeditions.
One particular maddening email just arrived in the official in-box of our genealogical society's treasurer, supposedly from the organization's president (that would be me), requiring information by return email so that a bill could be immediately paid. Thankfully, rather than comply, what our treasurer did immediately was call me to confirm that I had sent the email. Upon closer inspection, we discovered that, even though my name was on the email—spelled correctly, too, an unusual flourish!—the address it was sent from was a contrived gmail account, something almost anyone could set up for free and without any oversight or questioning.
That kind of incident was not an isolated example. It just so happened that a similar attempt was directed to the board of a nonprofit organization where my husband serves. I'm sure many other small groups have been targets of such attempts, as well.
What is frustrating to realize is that many nonprofit organizations are not the large, well-funded concerns we usually have in mind—thinking of places like the Red Cross or Salvation Army, for instance—but local, and tiny, volunteer groups whose hardworking heart is focused on helping make life better for others. Every penny for such groups is hard won, and volunteer help is stretched so thin that one rushed misstep could mean irrevocably losing an entire treasury.
Even more than that, not every genealogical society has been able to step up to face the social distancing demands of the current situation, and have suspended their meetings—even, in some cases, their board meetings. Without the customary frequent contact among board members, such cases might result in wrong assumptions acted upon, due to lack of communication.
Such situations are likely what perpetrators of these phishing scams are banking on. I just hope the hardworking volunteer board members of fellow genealogical societies don't fall prey to such strategies. We may be small, those of us in local genealogical societies, but we need to keep each other informed when we spot threats like this.