Shortly after a story I wrote here on The Huffington Post about Patrick D’Amore’s thriving eBay business entitled Your Personal Private Antiques Roadshow his site began to be hacked and the openly gay entrepreneur nearly lost his business. I spoke to D’Amore about what happened and question whether implicit bias and homophobia played a role in his allegations not being taken seriously.
When did the hacking begin? The hacking began the day after Veterans Day in 2015 and continued until March of this year. I had written a suicide note, made forty copies and addressed forty envelopes. Nobody believed my story and nobody would take me seriously. I felt I had no identity or control over any facet of my life. (It’s well documented that LGBTI individuals suffer from higher rates of suicide and depression.)
You’ve described what happened to you as gaslighting. What does that mean? The term for what my former business partner did to me is called gaslighting. It's where an emotional bully places enough doubt in your mind to question your own perception of reality. They hacked into my eBay changing prices, putting pictures out of focus or placing free shipping on heavy items. No matter how often I argued with eBay their response was always the same. The changes came from my IP address therefore it must be me. I spent hours on the phone with eBay. And after the first month I did begin to question my own sanity. (You can read more about gaslighting here from The Good Men Project Magazine and here from Psychology Today.)
How long have you been aware or diagnosed with your condition? I was diagnosed as Bi-Polar II with Psychotic Features my senior year of College. That was in 1999. I avoided inpatient hospitalization, but it was deemed necessary to take a leave of absence from Marist College where I was at school at the time.
What was the initial incident that made you aware that something wrong was going on? A series of unauthorized prices changes towards the end of November last year was the first strike. The changes were made to several of PandJsOddities [the former name of the eBay store] top clients and involved marking higher-end items down to 99 cents. It was horrific as I had the eBay application my phone. They had taken several Asian Antiquities and solid gold pieces worth thousands of dollars and decreased the price to 99 cents. The eBay application has a chiming noise when something is bid on. The chime started going off on pieces and when I saw the price I freaked. I used to adore that sound, now every time I hear it I cringe.
According to your account, they also found and distributed nude pictures of you. How did they obtain them? The first week the new guy was on the job, he came to me stating that he was going to “network” the three computers within the store. I had no idea of what “networking” entailed or what it meant. The way it was phrased, it appeared as if it would make life easier to run business related activities within the store, what I wasn’t aware of then was that networking involves sharing all the content on one computer with all other computers on the network. What I now know is that the computers were networked in such a way that they could access all of my personal files, databases, accounts, etc., and in this case nude pictures I had taken of myself in grad school. I became aware of this when the photos began appearing on social dating apps and sites.
Were there implicit or explicit threats made intended to shame you with the photos? No. What they did was prey on things I fear, obsessively worry about, or things I feel guilt about. Jean Harris once said that she wished to lead a private life and die a private death, and I was very much the same way until this began. This is a small town (The Town of Poughkeepsie) everyone knows each other.
What did eBay have to say about the hacking/stealing? One of the most frustrating angles of this entire situation was that eBay’s first stance was to deny the was hacking occurring. When the hacking first occurred changes or alterations within the account utilized an IP address mask. In other words, they would change prices on valuable items to 99 cents or place free shipping on items that weigh 15 pounds or more, from their computers or mobile devices, but the IP address which initially shows in eBay’s system showed it as my old computer. It wasn’t until the second or third week of December in 2015, that when an eBay employee named Jason Grimes acknowledged that my account was remotely accessed and by January then eBay began blocking unauthorized IP addresses from accessing my eBay account.
What recourse did eBay take or suggest you take? To seek legal action or to have the authorities step in. I am currently working with Detective Jeff Quiepo of the Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department who is being extremely helpful. Unfortunately proving these crimes is difficult as cyber crimes are becoming increasingly innovative and outpacing local law enforcement’s purview of knowledge. But I am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel thanks to Detective Quiepo’s help. But in all honesty, I don’t believe I will ever feel safe using a computer again.