Love in the Federal Workplace

Our patterns of courtship have changed with new technology. Ardent, would-be lovers are not the only people to use the Internet. One government employee found herself the victim of a scam–and the scammer got her personal information from her government computer.

Courtship and society’s mores change over time. Sociologists have written numerous books and articles on how the advent of the automobile changed dating patterns, parental restrictions and courtship patterns among amorous teenagers.

And, perhaps to a greater or lesser extent, the women’s liberation movement has had an impact as well. Sexual harassment was an unknown term in the workplace prior to the 1970’s but has since become the subject of books, lawsuits and has undoubtedly enriched the retirement accounts of some who were fortunate enough to win in America’s legal lottery. Anyone who thinks this has not had a big impact on overt courtship in American worksites probably was not working in offices 35 years ago.

As technology marches on, so do our patterns of dating and finding a person of special personal interest. The Internet, email and computer technology has also aroused scammers and thieves.

Many readers have received email messages detailing the unfortunate circumstances of a man in Nigeria who needs a place to hide or protect his millions of dollars as a result of a change in the military and political situation in Nigeria. The unfortunate multi-millionaire, according to his personal note to you, has selected you to benefit from his generosity and all he wants to do is to place the money in your account for a short time until he can escape and reclaim his money—leaving you with a hefty return for the inconvenience. Anyone who fell for this scam soon found their bank account emptied and the scammer long gone.

With the proliferation of the Internet, many people use dating services. It sounds like a good way to meet a person with similar interests, attitudes and an interest in meeting a soul mate. It probably works well for many people.

But one NASA employee got scammed. The scammer in this case was (again) from Nigeria. Akeem Adejumo was wooing a woman who, apparently, was using her government computer to receive Adejumo’s pictures and email. When she opened the email attachment to gaze upon the face of her ardent admirer, his romantic missive slipped a piece of spy ware on to her computer’s hard drive.

The spy ware took about 25,000 snapshots of her computer screen, sent her passwords, Social Security number, driver’s license information and her home address to the anonymous scammer. Needless to say, the information sent by Adejumo to the unsuspecting NASA employee was phony.

As he was using a Yahoo email account, the long arm of the NASA Inspector General’s office was able to reach across the ocean to work with the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crime Division. The Lagos State High Court has sentenced Adejumo to 18 months in prison.

NASA says that no government information was compromised. He was apparently after her personal information rather than trying to steal government secrets. NASA has not indicated if the federal employee was disciplined in any way but so far there has not been any indication that the cyber Lothario had fully implemented his scheme to steal her identity.

Federal employees are just as susceptible to scams as anyone else. A successful con artist may likely target your emotions as an entrée into your TSP, bank account or Social Security number (and your personal identity). Your government computer may be more secure than your home computer as most agencies go to considerable lengths to use programs that will detect spy ware or malicious programs.

Here is advice you would be well advised to heed: Don’t use your government computer to improve your love life—regardless of how you choose to define it. Numerous government employees have ended their careers by downloading pornography or participating in inappropriate activities while at work. While this NASA employee probably did not see anything wrong with getting email and pictures at work, her actions could have compromised a major government computer network. Her agency did spend considerable time and money chasing down the culprit as a result of her indiscretion.

Perhaps she will get off without any serious penalty. Sacrificing your federal career isn’t worth taking that chance. Don’t place yourself at the mercy of your agency’s management. See, for example, “Misuse of a Government Computer Can Get Your Fired.”

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47