NORMAN — What would you do if you received the following email from a dear friend or family member?
“I’m writing this with tears in my eyes, my family 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.”
The message goes on to ask that money be sent via Western Union to an office in London.
When my customer (we’ll call her “Mary”) called me about this email, she was definitely freaked out. Mary had spent the morning learning that this message had been sent to everyone in her email address book. She became aware of the situation because the message had also been sent to her husband’s email address and he knew for a fact that she was not in London.
Not only that, her Hotmail email account had been hacked and the password had been changed. Trying to use the “reset password” feature failed also, as the password reset information was being sent to a foreign email address, not the one she had previously established as her backup. Mary is locked out of her own account, and the odds of her regaining access are very, very slim.
To make matters worse, a well-meaning uncle had already fallen for the email scam and had wired $2,500 to the scammers in London. The realist in me says that money is gone forever. Western Union can’t be blamed for what happened. They were hired to wire some money to London and that’s what they did. Thousands of people around the world have also been ripped off by the exact same “I am stranded in London” scam.