I am penniless and without a passport right now in Istanbul, many of my friends believe.

That’s not at all impossible. I could well be. Two years ago, I was admiring the jewel-encrusted sword of Suleiman the Magnificent in Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace and buying satin pillows in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. It was a reasonable assumption that I could be down and out there on a return visit. And while experience has taught me to carry my passport and large bills in a pouch around my neck beneath my clothes, that hasn’t always been the case.

I became more careful after I had my passport, credit cards and travelers’ checks taken in New Delhi, India, had currency slipped from my pocket in an Ethiopian market, had my wallet stolen at the Tower of London and my pocketbook taken in New York on a Fifth Avenue bus.

As a travel writer, I travel extensively and sometimes to exotic places, my friends know. I do not think of myself as being an exceptionally careless traveler who is fair game for thieves. Rather, I believe I have been an exceptionally fortunate traveler because of the friends I have made through chance encounters around the world.

My misadventure in being hacked has solidified that belief.

Almost the first phone call I received after my email was hacked came from a friend in Warsaw I haven’t seen in a quarter of a century. If I was destitute, could she help and how, she wanted to know.

The next offer of aid came from the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. There, a German friend received news of my supposed dilemma on his laptop as he was boarding a plane for Thailand. He took time out to email a fellow Vineyarder to see what he could do to help me if I was indeed in Istanbul without money or identification. She assured him we had just talked at the West Tisbury post office and all was well. There were calls from friends in Rome and Paris.

Next came an email from a fellow Columbia Journalism School graduate, class of 1954. We had not seen each other in more than 50 years. He wanted to verify where I had worked after Columbia. If I answered correctly, he would do his best to get me sufficient funds to come home, he wrote.

So having been hacked hasn’t been all bad (except the burning of the midnight oil with AOL technicians trying to restore emails and email addresses).

I got a chuckle out of it as it brought back memories of other thefts in my past. (Happily, none has ever left me destitute.)

For a decade, after 1976, my passport picture bore behind my head the many arms of the Hindu god, Shiva. That was the sole backdrop available to the New Delhi photographer who took my picture for a replacement passport.

The wallet taken at the Tower of London was never retrieved, despite the keen-eyed ravens and all those elegantly garbed Beefeaters in fur hats.

Most of the time I did not feel that I left myself open to these thefts, but on the Fifth Avenue bus, I will admit that I fell asleep early one morning with my handbag in my lap. A woman wearing a surgical mask was frequenting the bus in those days and preying on those who turned away from her heavy breathing. In my case, I was simply tired and snoozing. The only item of value in my pocketbook was a reporter’s notebook filled with notes from interviews with the novelist John Barth and the Henry James scholar Leon Edel. I later had to sheepishly return to both writers and re-interview them. I remember blushing when Edel greeted me at his door with, “Here comes the two-time reporter!”

Being hacked really is in the same category as being pickpocketed. All you have to do is be off-guard for a second and open an email from an unknown (or intriguing-sounding) sender. In my case, I fell for a bill inquiry from AOL. I have since learned that legitimate AOL communications are always marked by a flag. Some of my friends knew immediately that I’d been hacked because my letter of distress began not frantically, but formally with “Good morning,” and ended with an unlikely “Faithfully yours.”

But I am grateful to all those who were concerned one way or another with my dire condition and were eager to help out. I might very well have been in Istanbul, penniless, without a passport and afraid. How good it is to know that I have so many generous, thoughtful friends out there around the world.