Someone in Nigeria hacked into my Hotmail account last week and told all my contacts that I was stuck over there with a desperately sick cousin (“DOCTOR SAYS DELAY IS DANGEROUS”) and needed them to send me £1,500 to an account in Lagos at once… Well over sixty people phoned or emailed me about this in the following days, but I couldn’t warn anyone not to send money because the hacker had deleted all my contacts, as well as moving a whole page of my messages to the deleted folder, for some reason. Most recipients had seen this sort of thing many times before and just deleted the hoax message, but a few were touchingly prepared to believe it and so they contacted me to say they were having problems with sending money through Western Union. Some thought that since my latest novel Only a Signal Shown has a chapter about Nigeria near the start, it was possibly believable.
But hey, it’s not all bad; several people finished our conversation about the scam by saying, “Oh by the way I am really enjoying your novel!” which they hadn’t said before; it matters a lot when people say that. And I feel a short story coming along here – some people who had not spoken to me for many years got in touch just because of this hoax. What if your account got hacked into and as a result you suddenly heard from an old school-friend, or plumber, or headmistress looking for an emergency supply teacher, or lover? What happens next?