STAFFORD, VA -- The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy. But in Stafford County, one family is suffering through tears, anger and pain. They've been hammered by a barrage emails from their dead mother's account.
They cannot make it stop. Every other day another email from the hacker hit's them. "Male enhancement!" "Work at home!" "Cheap Viagra!" -- all from their dead mother's account -- and each a reminder of the pain of losing her.
The emails started about two months ago, almost two years to the day after Cassie Woods' mom died of nearly untreatable scleroderma. Woods' heard a beep on her phone in September and looked down and saw it was from her mom's email account. "My mom was my best friend," she says through tears.
The emails kept coming to everyone in Paula Case's address book. A hacker had hijacked her account. "I don't think it's fair that me and my sisters have to suffer seeing an email from my mom that's not even here," Woods says weeping.
Cassie's husband, an Iraq vet, sent an email to the hacker pleading with him to stop. "The email address belongs to my wife's mother who passed away two years ago. Please stop what you're doing before we go to the police," he wrote.
They tried to shut down the account. "Everything you have on an account to prove that you're that person, I have of my mother's," says Woods. "So you would think they would just shut it down so it would stop." But the hacker has changed the password and the alternate email account where resets go.
They called Yahoo, and asked the company to close the account. "It was one of those endless nightmares of push this number, and push this number, and push this number," says Jarrod Woods.
Finally someone from Yahoo told them they needed Paula Chase's death certificate, which they're still trying to get.
And still the emails keep coming, some of them obscene and graphic, from the account of a woman who never drank, never smoked and never even cussed. "She was a Christian lady, and to see male enhancement in an email from her -- it was kind of devastating," says her daughter.
A Yahoo spokesman was reluctant to talk specifics, but said the company is working with the family to close the account. Cassie Woods says the help consists of calling with a fax number where they can send the death certificate.
Yahoo still needs a death certificate, even though you can Google Paula Chase's name, and find her obituary, or look on Nexis and see she's listed in the Social Security death index.
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Written and Reported by Bruce Leshan