This morning I awoke to the email below in my inbox. I immediately suspected that it was a scam because:
- It was from someone who I did not know well enough to be asking me for money
- The person claimed that their credit cards were stolen and they were being told by the hotel that they must settle their room charges before departing. Now I don’t know about you but it’s been a good 10 to 20 years since I’ve been to a hotel where they did not keep my credit card on file. In many cases the charges are even prepaid.
How does this scam work?
Someone’s email account is hacked – usually by tricking them into a bogus (but official looking) site that prompts them to enter their user name and password for their email account. This is quite often done in “pfishing” emails that seem valid but their intent is to steal your user name and password.
Once the email login and password has been stolen the hacker has full access to send out emails to anyone in the address book. Since these contacts likely know each other it’s far more likely that a hack of this type might work on at least one or two unsuspecting friends.
Here’s The Email That Was Sent
Date: Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 7:24 AM
Subject: Awful Ordeal……xxxxxx (friend’s name)
To: Undisclosed recipients
This message may be coming to you as a surprise but I need your help. Few days back we made an unannounced vacation trip to London, United Kingdom. Everything was going fine until last night when we got mugged on our way back to the hotel, all cash and credit card were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us.
I’ve been to the Embassy and the Police here but they’re not helping issues at all they asked us to wait for 3 weeks but we can’t wait till then and our flight leaves in few hours from now but we’re having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let us leave until we settle the hotel bills, Dealing with foreign authorities here is extremely frustrating, It would take us about 24 hours to get everything straighten out before we could leave, we are freaked out at the moment…I really need your financial assistance.
Please let me know if you could help us out financially?
What The Scammer Hopes Happens
The scam relies on you knowing the person who sent the email. They hope you will reply back (remember the scammer is in control of the email account) and at that point you’ll likely be given instructions to wire transfer funds urgently overseas.
If you do transfer funds – expect that will be the last you ever see of the money.
Your best bet is to contact your friend immediately by phone (do not reply to the compromised email) and verify the information.