Those on the Davis Chamber of Commerce email list may have been shocked to learn Thursday morning that director Janet Mathis had gone on a last-minute vacation, was mugged and injured, and desperately needed monetary donations to help pay for her medical bills and get her back home.
The only problem — it wasn't true.
Sometime Thursday morning, hackers commandeered the Chamber's email account and spread the rumor, prompting some curious phone calls for Mathis' assistant, Rainy Pulley.
"I probably had 30 calls before 10 o'clock this morning," she said. "It's been quite the day."
In addition to the phony email that was distributed, Pulley said all contacts — more than 300 — were removed, along with any other information.
"Fortunately, there was no financial data or anything like that for them to get hold of with the account. That's not the kind of stuff we use that account for," she said. "But we did miss out, potentially, on a lot of important information. Anything sent to us before 3 p.m. (Thursday) didn't make it to us."
After some calls to AT&T, the controlling entity over the Yahoo mail account, the matter was remedied by the afternoon, and control was regained. But Pulley said they remain hesitant to use the email, let alone access it fully.
"When I found out what happened, I immediately ran virus scanners, security programs on all of the computers to make sure our information was OK," Pulley said. "It seems like they only got access to our email, not our computers. So that was good."
But she cautioned, even though their computers were fine, people who received the email might want to run security checks of their own. AT&T said nothing appeared to have spread beyond the emails, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
In lieu of the recent cyber-intrusion, the Davis Chamber of Commerce has started a new email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
"We do have control of the account now, but we want to be sure it's safe before we even consider using it again," Pulley said. "So until further notice, we'll be using this one, if not for good."
The hacking comes in the midst of the Davis and Sulphur chambers coordinating a joint auction at the Murray County Expo Center, which was set for Thursday evening.
"It's been a wild one," Pulley said. "Hopefully tomorrow will be better."