Silverdale developer surprised to hear he's stranded in London

As it turns out, Silverdale realtor and developer Ron Ross is not in London and he doesn't need 850 pounds to help pay for hotel bills.

When Ross went to check his mail Friday afternoon, his e-mail account had been temporarily closed and a flashing banner from Yahoo told him the company had detected something wrong with his account. Minutes later, the phone calls started coming in.

The e-mail stated that Ross is in London and had misplaced his wallet, and he was requesting the money be sent as a loan because the embassy was not helping him get home. The e-mail promises a refund on the loan pending Ross' return to the United States.

"I've got a good many calls on it," Ross said Friday afternoon.

He added that he wasn't too concerned with his account being hacked.

"It's just some kid prankster thing, I think," he said.

It's a common e-mail scam, sometimes called "address book hijacking," and has usually upset the address holder because of the embarrassment it can cause.

The source of the security breach has been attributed to malware hidden on a personal computer, or a Web site has harvested them from the e-mail address holder, according to

Kristin Alexander, a spokeswoman for the state Office of the Attorney General, said address book hijacking can be deterred by using updated anti-virus spyware software and a firewall.

Alexander said she had heard recently that a Western Washington business had a hijacked address book e-mail with a similar story about being stranded in London.

A computer infected with the virus, sometimes called a "zombie" computer, can wreak havoc on millions of other computers, she said.

"If you don't protect your PC, yours very well become one of these nasty, little zombies," she said.

Ross, who said he has about 240 contacts in his address book and uses anti-virus software, doesn't use e-mail for anything other than general correspondences.

"I don't do any business over e-mail," he said. "I don't bank online, I don't do anything financially at all."

Ross also said most, if not all, of those who receive the e-mail would know it wasn't him based on the poor grammar used.

"If they knew me, they know I would use a little better English," he said.

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