A few months ago, I was shocked and amazed to receive an email from Friends Reunited entitled ‘Janet Oldsgate has sent you a private message’.

God, I was so excited, I could hardly contain myself. The adrenalin started flowing, I broke out in a hot sweat and clicked through like I had never clicked through before.

Oh no. What is my darned password for Friends Reunited ? I looked it up on the Palm - nothing. I looked in Thunderbird under ‘Infrequently used Web sites’ - nothing. I tried a couple of the usual suspects but no joy. Then I remembered the password was in fact, ‘JOldsgate73!’. This password was a deliberate and incredibly secure choice to prevent a repeat of the unfortunate incident when my wife hacked my Friends Reunited account and modified my ‘Profile’ in an oh so amusing and hilarious fashion. My, how we laughed.

Now I was logged in and the sense of anticipation grew. I summoned up the courage and clicked on the inviting ‘Your Messages’ icon. Nothing. Shurely shome mishtake. Refresh. Nothing. I frantically read the online help and used ‘Advanced Search’ to locate all private messages from ‘Janet Oldsgate’ sent directly to me, ever. Absolutely nothing.

Then it slowly dawned on me. There was no private, personal message from my long lost and first love, Janet Oldsgate. I shouldn’t have got my hopes up. I should have known better. I was gullible. I was foolish.

The clues were there all along. Firstly, I went to an all boys grammar school. Secondly, I do not and have never known anyone called Janet Oldsgate.

This email was merely an elaborate, cruel hoax (known as phishing) that ruins peoples’ lives, causing untold distress and angst to its innocent victims and breaking up happy marriages. And all of this purely in the name of a CRM marketing campaign to drive more traffic to the Friends Reunited web site.

And now on the back of the increased traffic, advertising revenue and click through rates generated by this slightly questionable and underhand campaign, the founders of Friends Reunited have sold up to ITV for a cool 120 million GBP.