Categorized | Opinion

Hacked E-mail Sends a Clear Message

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Millington Star Editor Thomas Sellers Jr. could be found working at his desk last week and not overseas in need of help. A hacked e-mail brought confession to readers and friends of Sellers last Friday.

Friday morning I awoke in my bed in Memphis, Tenn.

The reason why the location is so important was an e-mail that was circulating as I slumbered. An hour before my scheduled alarm clock my cell phone started to buzz and go wild with my e-mail alert.

Unknown to me, my work account was hacked. So 10 years worth of contacts was being messaged by a fake e-mail stating I was in trouble in the Philippines and was in need of $1,800.

Unfortunately, several people across the world are victims of scams especially this time of year. Cyber criminals try to take advantage of people’s generosity during the holiday seasons. Thanks to that horrible e-mail I received confirmation of how loving and caring the communities The Millington Star serves are.

As soon as my phone stopped alerting me of 235 e-mails, I got text messages from my high school friend Lisa Starnes, college colleague Daniel Ford and former co-worker Christina Morgan-Purkey. They all said, ‘Thomas I think you were hacked.’

After they made sure I was OK and changed my password, the next series of text messages came through my phone. Down at Southwind High School, former Millington Lady Trojans Head Coach Stan Gatlin made sure I didn’t have an Hangover 3 weekend. Next was Millington Central High School’s Athletic Director Beth Hale making sure I was state side and safe.

MCHS students and other administrators like Marsha Davis went to Facebook to get in touch with me. Then one of my former athletes Ashley “Beefy” Lewis text me asking me was I behaving in United States.

Then Millington grant writer and former mayoral candidate Debra Sigee called me to make sure I was aware a weird e-mail was circulating with my name on it. This is all taking place from 7:30 to 9 a.m., when The Star office is opening. It was about 20 into the work day when I got a text from our Felicia Watkins telling me about 30 calls have been made about my whereabouts.

Munford’s Mike Anderson was one of those worried. He called his wife Eileen to see if they could donate to my rescue effort.

Up the road in Brighton, Lady Cardinals Basketball Head Coach Kent Cates gave me a ring to make sure I was still alive and in the U.S. Just before his call, Shari Armour at Tipton-Rosemark Academy called, ‘Where are you Thomas?’

I even got a call from Bolton High School Assistant Principal Bo Griffin making sure I was fine. By this time I started to feel blessed. It was evident over nine years I’ve built friendships, solid working relationships and strong bonds with the community I serve.

And I must have touched some lives in Memphis, Arkansas and Mississippi as well. I heard from voices of my past that brought a smile to my face.

Connections I developed from my stay in Leadership Millington in 2008 checked up on me. Even Mayor-Elect Terry Jones dropped by The Star office to make sure they knew about the e-mail.

Inspector Charlie Coleman at the Millington Police Department saw me and said, ‘Hey, you’re not in the Philippines.’

My dear friend and Star columnist Otis Griffin was on edge making sure nothing happen to me. In Drummonds Sherronda Alexander, daughter of Mama Tena, was trying to get in touch with me to make sure I was OK. I felt better that Friday night when her mother hooked me up with some greens and a sweet potato pie.

At the game several people came up to me and let me know they saw the e-mail. And their first thought was about my well-being.

That became clear to me Saturday night after covering the Millington Christmas Parade. I got a phone call from Ricky Foster Sr. His son Ricky Jr. was the 2012 Millington Star Male Athlete of the Year and one of the best Brighton Cardinal athletes ever.

Ricky Sr. held his own on the basketball courts back in the day. Now a family man and a supporter of Tipton County athletes, Foster was desperately trying to reach me for 24 hours.

With a little research, he located my cell phone number and gave me a call. He told me his family raised $200. They were going to take care of a family member.

I had to fight back tears to thank him for the generous thought. This man has a son in college at Tennessee State University and a family to take care of. But he was still willing to take a portion of his earnings for me.

Then Tuesday morning, TRA Head Baseball Coach Brad Smith checked his e-mail after getting back in town. He calls me at 7:20 a.m., “Thomas where are you Bud? Is everything OK?” He was was ready to send some cash to help me out.

That’s why I love my job and the people I serve. From those in Northaven who were ready to ride to an Asian country to save me to the good folks of Tipton County ready to give their hard-earned money, I know there are several who care about me.

It’s wonderful people like those in our coverage area who predators try to take advantage of each year and everyday. They prey on the elderly, young and naive. Those criminals take information and lie to scam people.

Its disturbing that my job and name was used in that way. But it is giving me a chance to reach back to the communities I love and say stay alert to those bad guys out there. One thing I know about the great people in this area, they are smart.

And family takes care of family. The communities of North Shelby County and South Tipton County are family. And I’m so blessed to be a part of it.

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December 2012
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