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Many people are falling for this con. Though I've discussed this phishing scam in previous blogs, it deserves to be noted again.
Recently, I have heard from three different friends who were introduced to this latest scam -one way or another. And I received an email too -one that appeared to come from a very close friend (see below)-who was not out of the country, as the desperate plea relayed. This phishing scam is hooking thousands of well-meaning consumers. It's netting results, which is why it keeps showing up.
It works this way:
A hacker gets hold of your email password and therefore into your web-based email. From there, he or she sends out a message using your email address as the return -to everyone in your address book. The email is a plea for help--"I'm in London, all my credit cards have been stolen, the hotel is demanding its money"--and because it comes from a friend, odds are pretty good that at least one super nice person on your whole email list will respond with some kind of assistance.
Longtime consumer advocate Chris Elliot wrote about this scam on his new blog, On You Side. In his account, the victim first lost access to her Gmail account, then she started receiving phone calls from concerned friends. In a particularly clever twist, the scammers actually answered emails sent to the Gmail account, using personal information they found in the email Inbox to respond to queries intended to make it clear who was on the other end of the email conversation. So much for trick questions! They had all the right answers, and at least one of the victim's friends sent (and lost) a chunk of cash.
Elliot's site is a wiki and blog intended to make available the kinds of customer service access routes that corporations don't make readily available. One of my pet peeves is the lack of accountability in the mortgage servicing industry--people write to me all the time about how they can never reach a human being to talk about their loan or its modification--(let alone find out who the actual note holder is! I heartily support Elliot's grassroots efforts to make businesses accountable by making their real contact information known.
So learn from the mistakes of others. Keep your passwords protected. Don't send money unless you have spoken to the person you know -and know exactly who it's going to. And if you manage to reach a human being who helps provide a solution to your problem, share that information with the rest of us at onyoursi.de
Here's the actual letter, typos and all, that I received from my friend's email address after her password was hacked. Consider using this info to warn your friends, family and seniors who may not be aware of this particular scam -or any of the other internet risks and various known scams, that are circulating today. Think Fraud! If not now, when?
----- Original Message -----
Subject: Urgent Response Needed
Hello,I'm writing this with tears in my eyes,I came down here to London,England for a short vacation and I was mugged at gun point last night at the park of the hotel where i lodged all cash,credit cards and cell were stolen off me. I am even owing the hotel here,the hotel manager won't let me leave until i settle the hotel bills now am freaked out.So i have limited access to emails for now, please i need you to lend some money so i can make arrangements and return back I am full of panic now,the police only asked me to write a statement about the incident and directed me to the embassy,i have spoken to the embassy here but they are not responding to the matter effectively, I will refund the money back to you as soon as i get home, I am so confused right now and thank God i wasn't injured because I complied immediately. I will be waiting to hear from you since i can't access the internet always. Thanks a Million.