Travel Scam Alert – Your friend was not mugged
A ‘friend’ sends you a desperate email from overseas. They’ve been mugged and are asking for your help so they can pay their bills and get a flight back home. The email is coming from your friend’s account, and it does sound legit, but you didn’t even know your friend was on vacation. Be careful before sending cash, you’re this far from becoming the victim of the latest internet scam.
In the latest trend, scammers have been hacking their way into web based email accounts (like Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail) by guessing a users password. They then send out a ‘cry for help’ email to everyone in the address book. The hope is that someone can be convinced into sending cash using a wire service.
Here’s one email I received from a friend’s hacked account:
I’m writing this with tears in my eyes,my fam and I came down here to London,England for a short vacation unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed,all cash,credit card and cell were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us.
We’ve been to the embassy and the Police here but they’re not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in less than 3hrs from now but we’re having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let us leave until we settle the bills.
Am freaked out at the moment..
Other variants include, “I’ve lost my wallet on my way to the hotel” or “Our rental car was broken into and everything was taken”. Other ways to tell it’s a scam – they usually don’t address you by name and the spelling, syntax, and grammar are off.
So, if you are the recipient of one of these emails, call your friend (don’t use the email account), make sure they’re okay, and tell them their email has been hacked. If you are the owner of a web based email account, make sure your password is sufficiently strong enough to not be guessed. Some combination of letters, numbers and special characters usually does the trick.