This post originally appeared on RamschackleGlam and is republished here by permission.
For several days not so long ago, RamshackleGlam.com — the domain name that I have owned and operated since March of 2010 — did not belong to me, but rather to a man who goes by the name "bahbouh" on an auction website called Flippa, and who was attempting to sell off the site to the highest bidder (with a "Buy It Now" price of $30,000.00). He promised the winner my traffic, my files, and my data, and suggested that I was available "for hire" to continue writing posts (alternatively, he was willing to provide the winner with "high-quality articles" and "SEO advice" to maintain the site's traffic post-sale).
I learned that my site was stolen on a Saturday. Three days later I had it back, but only after the involvement of fifty or so employees of six different companies, middle-of-the-night conferences with lawyers, FBI intervention, and what amounted to a sting operation that probably should have starred Sandra Bullock instead of…well…me.
Of course I've heard of identity theft, and of cyber hacking, but honestly, my attitude towards these things was very much "it could never happen to me." And even if it did…I didn't exactly understand why it was such a huge deal. Couldn't you just explain to people what had happened, prove who you were, and sort it all out? We live in such a highly documented world, it seemed completely impossible to me that someone could actually get away with pretending to be someone else with any real consequences beyond a few phone calls and some irritation.
It's much, much worse — more threatening, more upsetting, and more difficult (if not impossible) to fix — than I'd ever imagined.
I found out about the hacking from my father. His friend Anthony (who runs a web development and consulting company called ThoughtBox) had been surfing around on Flippa and had — in an impossibly lucky coincidence — noticed that my site was up for auction, with what appeared to be a highly suspicious listing. Suddenly, I remembered the email I had gotten the day before — an email that I had disregarded as spam — from someone "interested in the purchase" of my "weblog." I remembered the notification from YouTube that someone had accessed my account from a different location — a notification I had ignored, assuming that I had logged in on a mobile device or that my husband had accidentally logged into my account instead of his own.