Last week some friends of ours in the travel industry were victims of an email travel scam which resulted in them losing control of their email and Facebook accounts. The hackers also targeted their friends and professional contacts by sending the following email (please note the letter was not edited):
This message may be coming to you as a surprise but we need your help.Few days back we made an unannounced vacation trip to London,UK. Everything was going fine until last night when we got mugged on my way back to the hotel. They Stole all my cash,credit cards and cellphone but thank God we still have our life and passports.Another shocking is that the hotel manager has been unhelpful to me for reasons I don’t know. I’m writing you from a local library cybercafe..We reported to the police and after writing down some statements that’s the last we had from them.I contacted the consulate and all we keep hearing is they will get back to us. I need you to help me out with a loan to settle our bills here so we can get back home tomorrow. I’ll refund the money as soon as I get back. All we need is $2,550..Let me know if you can get me the money then I tell you how to get it to me. Thanks.
Fortunately, most of us who received this email recognized the email was a scam, for one the grammar and tone signaled red flags. I called our friends to ensure they knew about the scam. They sure did. In fact, friends had started calling the pair hours before when they first received the letter to verify it wasn’t them who sent the email (they were safe and sound in their own home here in the United States). Our friends spent the entire day reassuring friends and family they were safe and had many phone exchanges with the authorities. The situation sounded like a nightmare. To top it off, they no longer had access to their contact list to warn people they hadn’t sent the email since they were locked out of their account.
I don’t know if anyone replied from this batch of emails, but this wasn’t the first time I had heard of this scam. A quick search on the internet proved people have been getting scammed by this same tactic for sometime. Sadly, not everyone who is targeted raises their eyebrows. Instead, gullible friends will reply and agree to send money – even cash! I can see how naive people could fall for this. After all, trustworthy people are scammed every day – look how many times silly “warning” emails are forwarded for months on end. Throw in that it’s not uncommon for people to be mugged while traveling and you have a recipe for disaster.
If you ever receive a similar email such as the one above from a “friend” always question its authenticity because it’s very likely it is an email travel scam. Connect with other friends and family members and attempt to notify your friend or acquaintance to warn them that their email has been hacked. And most importantly, never send money. If someone is requesting money via email, something isn’t right. Please use good judgment. If people stop falling for this scam, the crooks will give up.