Gail received an email the other day from a friend of hers. The email said that she had gone to London, England for an impromptu vacation and gotten mugged, and now they needed money to get home, and asked if we could help them out. The email was fairly convincing:
How you doing? This has had to come in a hurry as it left me in a devastating state… Myself, and the Kids made a trip to London (United Kingdom) unannounced some days back on vacay, Unfortunately we got mugged at gun point last night! All cash, Credit card and phone got stolen, we are stranded in London, fortunately passport and travel docs was back in my hotel room. It was a bitter experience and I was hurt on my right hand, but would be fine. I’m sending you this message cos I don’t want anyone to panic; I want you to keep it that way for now!
Our return flight leaves tomorrow, but we’re having troubles sorting out the hotel bills.. This is embarrassing enough, wondering if you could loan us some dollars to sort out the hotel bills and also take a cab to the airport about ($2000). We have been in contact with the police and the Embassy here, but they aren’t helping issues, We got limited means of getting out of here, Already canceled our cards and made a police report.. We don’t get new card numbers till we get back home! So we really need your help.
You could wire whatever you can spare to my name and hotel address via Western union:
56 Kentish Town Road
London, NW5 2AA
Please get back to me with the details once you have made the transfer; would def refund it to you once I arrive! Hopefully in 2 days, Sorry for any inconvenience this might cause you.
I await your prompt response.
Gail forwarded it on to me asking if we could help them. I was immediately suspicious (turns out Gail was too, but she didn’t say that in her email) and I responded to Gail warning her that this had a bad smell to it. I told her that if she was going to respond, tell her friend to call us collect and send no money until we’d talked to her in person. I asked if her friend ever used the word “vacay” (I don’t know anyone who does) or if she’d be likely to say “I await your prompt response”. More importantly, is she the kind of person who would take off for England on short notice? Even if she was, would she bring the kids during the first month of school? Gail decided that this was not likely and called her at home. Sure enough, she was there, her email account had been hacked, and she had already had over 40 phone calls from other people. Hopefully nobody got suckered in.
I’ve seen lots of different email scams and most of them are obviously fake. This one looked relatively legitimate – so much so that while I was immediately suspicious, I didn’t dismiss it out of hand like I usually do. Be careful out there.