I received an email from someone I know who'd had a series of problems when traveling. He needed a little bit of immediate cash, though didn't say where to send it. So, I had to reply to him and ask.
I didn't ask. Something seemed wrong. Actually, a few too many things. So, first, I did an Internet search for some of the text in the email -- and it brought back that it was,indeed, a scam. His email account had been hacked.
It was a pretty good scam, by the way. The email was fairly believable. It didn't have a link to click where to send the money. The email even had his own, real embedded signature. But there were a few too many of those "this doesn't seem right." Starting with anyone asking for money, whoever it is, however small the amount.
This is the text, in case you receive something similar. The Subject line was --- "My sad trip..." followed by his name.
I really hope you get this fast. I could not inform anyone about our trip, because it was impromptu. we had to be in Philippines for Tour.. The program was successful, but our journey has turned sour. we misplaced our wallet and cell phone on our way back to the hotel we lodge in after we went for sight seeing. The wallet contained all the valuables we had. Now, our passport is in custody of the hotel management pending when we make payment.
The first problem was that I didn't understand how a wallet could contain "all the valuables" you had. It might contain all your valuable papers, but not wat ches and keys and such. And even that was odd, since valuable documents generally won't fit in a wallet.
There also were quite a few punctuation typos. Those could happen if you were stressed, but it's still a heads-up.
In addition, the return email address in his signature was different from the reply address.
And the reply email address didn't have any similarity to his name. That's not uncommon, but with all the other issues, it was just one more caution.
And one other huge caution -- he writes that he has "only very few people to run to now"...and for the life of me, I didn't see how I could be one of those few. He was really a friend of my brother, and we'd traded maybe three emails in 10 years. I hadn't seen him in decades. This would have been more effective with an actual close friend, but fortunately it was a caution to me.
When you get enough cautions, it's time to check something out.
I'm not sure what this scam is, since there isn't much information. It's possible that I would have gotten a reply with details. If so, that starts to open up a world a problems when the scammer is trying to come across like a close friend. It's possible too that sending a reply would take me to a website that had a downloadable virus. I don't know. I just know it's a scam.
How did it occur? He probably downloaded a virus when clicking on a link, and it took over access to his email address book contact list.
Anyway, the point here is that if you receive such an email, no matter how good the friend, no matter if it looks pretty believable -- delete it. At the very least, do a search and check it out. Or if it really is a friend...call them.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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