Saturday, 10 January 2009

Help, someone's trying to steal my group!

Don't panic! No-one can get access to your group either on Yahoo or on the Recycling Group Finder.

Some group owners have emailed me asking about an email they have received at their group owner addresses from that looks like this:
Thank you for taking the time to activate your moderator account with
To complete the activation simple click on the following URL:
This was requested by If you don't have access to that email address, or weren't expecting this email then it is possible that the person who did was trying to signup to your group, they may need to be contacted and given help signing up.
The email was sent by the Recycling Group Finder site, but for a good reason.

Why did I receive this email?

On the group information page for each site there is a link to allow the group owner to sign up to, like this one for Vallejo Freecycle:

Once signed up recycling group owners can update the number of members, add notes and re-position the group on the map. It wouldn't be good if anyone could do this though, there needs to be some sort of authorisation process to ensure that only the group owner can make these changes.

Only a group owner can access a group

In order to access the admin area to make the sort of changes mentioned above the group owner needs to first click on the 'Sign up to administer this group' link (shown in the screen grab). They are then asked to create a login for

Once they have done that the site sends an email to the Yahoo group owner address (not the email address of the person who just signed up to the site) with an authorisation token in the form of a link to the site. The group owner clicks on the link and are then confirmed as being eligible to administer the group.

It seems complicated…

This method of verifying group ownership is necessary to ensure only the right people have access to make changes to their group. It's accurate because the verification process requires access to the Yahoo group owner address, which only group owners have.

I clicked on the link by mistake! Did I just give someone else access?

No, the authorisation token sent to the Yahoo group owner email address is linked to the person who created it. Clicking on the activation link will do nothing if you didn't request it.

So why did I get the email, I didn't request it?!

Mostly this is due to people trying to sign up to your group but being confused about the right place to do so. The Internet is still a confusing place to most people on the planet and the chances are person who initiated the email is just trying to do the right thing and sign up to a recycling group to start recycling and re-using.

I do try to make it clear that this is not the place to sign up to the group, the link mentions signing up to be a moderator, on the next page there is a big title 'Freecycle Group Moderator signup: Your details' header and before you do try and signup, this message:

Unfortunately many people just don't read the pages or just don't understand the difference between a normal user and owner/moderator.

What should I do?

Hopefully help the user. It is most likely that the user is genuinely trying to sign up to your recycling, re-use or Freecycle group and has no malicious intent. Also, if owners sign up to administer their group the 'Sign up…' link is removed automatically as seen on the San Francisco Freecycle group page. Any comments and suggestions feel free to comment on this post or email me directly, the email address is at the bottom of every page on the Recycling Group Finder.