Freaky Tuesday: How I Became CEO of Etsy

Last Tuesday I woke up to find I was CEO of Etsy.

Emails poured in with congratulations, virtual “hi-fives”, and even an unsolicited job seeker with a resume.  My LinkedIn profile views and connection requests shot through the roof.

While I have spent my career managing high-growth companies, and I appreciate the confidence everyone has in me, the fact is that THAT Josh Silverman just isn’t me.

This isn’t the first time a Josh Silverman was mistaken as me.  A few years back, I got a call from my Mother who explained that after a twenty-minute conversation with “me”, she realized that she was talking to the not-her-son Josh Silverman from Boston, MA.   It seems when I moved to my new apartment she had called to check up on me, and directory assistance had connected her to the only Josh Silverman they had listed in that geography.

According to search algorithms, there are between thirty and forty Josh Silvermans in the US.   The one named CEO of Etsy is the former Skype and Evite CEO, and the other Josh from Boston is now a designer at Twitter.  I imagine he got the same uptick in social media last Monday that I did.  It’s not a common name, but common enough to cause confusion.  Just think if I were a James Smith, numbering over 45,000.

In technology, hackers use mistaken identities to ply their trade, manipulating the common elements found in electronic communication like how Google Docs are shared and couple them with the human capacity for trust (and increasingly, the frenetic pace of multitasking) to create a pathway to destruction.   In layman’s terms, imitate Josh Silverman to deceive to his network.  The most prevalent hacks are built on phishing, spoofing, and catfishing, and while they have colorful names, they are no laughing matter.

Phishing is an email-based attempt to gain information including usernames, credit card numbers, or social security details by using a familiar process like opening a document or filling in an online form and redirecting message recipients to malicious sites.  Spoofing is about impersonation, and the process leverages the basic TCP/IP protocols of computer communication to send emails from “known entities” or to clone entire web site addresses to gain sensitive information and access.   Catfishing can be part of a romance scam, and is a term used to describe the deceptive practices of impersonation or falsified identities found on social media sites.

By slowing down our processes to really examine the elements of emails or social media profiles, you’ll find telltale signs emerge as ways to identify these scams.  Most important?  Don’t open email or other solicitations from parties you do not know.  If you do, examine the From: address carefully, to determine if that really is your Grandpa sending you a link to a web site.  Be confident in the fact that most of the companies you already work with like Google, Facebook, and Slack do not ask for passwords or social security information via email, so if you’re asked – don’t answer!  In addition, work with your IT team to set up a blocked list for email senders so that as you identify spammers, you won’t have to deal with them again.  Put in practice, low-tech solutions work great for these high-tech problems.

Through diligence and a critical eye for detail, you’ll not only prevent yourself from being defrauded, but you’ll help your entire company by keeping scams out of the networks and systems.

And if you hear from Josh Silverman, tell him I said ‘hi’.