Consumer alert: No, you don’t have a friend who was mugged in London today

Watch out. Someone pretending to be a friend is out to make a quick buck today. Don’t fall for it.

The scam, which I first wrote about last year, steals email passwords and then sends a message to your contacts, pleading for money. As I noted in a follow-up story, the swindle is relatively easy to spot — if you know what to look for.

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I’ve had three emails this morning, which suggests the cybercriminals have hit the jackpot with a new phishing technique.

Here’s the first one (mind all the typos — I’m not correcting them).

Hi,

I really don’t mean to inconvenience you right now but I made a quick trip to London and had my bag stolen from me in which contains my cell phone, passport, cash and credit cards.

I’ve been to the embassy and they’re willing to help with my documentation but I just have to pay for my hotel bills.

Unfortunately, I can’t have access to funds without my credit card, I’ve made contact with my bank but they need more time to come up with a new one.

Please let me know if you can help me out with some funds which i will give back to you as soon as i get home, i can forward you details for transfer. You can reach me via email or the hotel’s help desk. I hope to hear from you soon.

And here’s another one.

I’m writing with tears in my eyes,my family and I came down here to (Buckingham shire) United Kingdom, for a short vacation unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel we stayed,all cash credit cards and cell were stolen off but luckily for us we still have our passports with us.

I have been to the embassy and the Police here but they’re not helping issues at all and our flight leaves pretty soon 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.Please be so kind to reply back so I can tell you what to do and how to get some cash to us.

I’m freaked out at the moment

If you think you won’t fall for it, think again. Here’s a teacher who got taken by it and lost more than $6,000.

My best advice? Ignore the email. You might also consider contacting your friend who is “emailing” you and letting him or her know the account has been compromised.

I thought engaging the scam artists might be funny, but that was before I learned about the reader who lost six grand. There’s nothing funny about that.

Also, give your passwords to no one. The only time you should be surrendering your Gmail or Yahoo! password is when you log on to the Gmail or Yahoo!

(Photo: Da vy D/Flickr Creative Commons)

10 thoughts on “Consumer alert: No, you don’t have a friend who was mugged in London today

    1. @facebook-591689743:disqus London is a plausible destination for almost anyone in the States, and there’s enough of a time difference that corresponding by email (their preferred method) is more practical.

    2. At least it’s more plausible than when this scam first started and they said the friend was visiting Nigeria.

  1. Got a couple of typos in this article – are you sure the scammer didn’t write this article? 🙂

  2. Another similar scam that happened to one of our clients – He received a call from his “grandson” who told him that he was out of town and was arrested for drunk driving. He needed money wired to him to post bail, but was too embarrassed to tell his parents. He needed the money quick, but “please don’t call my parents, they’ll be furious!” He is a much older man and thought the guy calling sounded like his grandson, so he went to a money wiring service. When he told them the story of why he needed to wire money, they were suspicious and warned him against it, but the man was pretty sure it had been his grandson and sent the funds. As he was leaving the store, he decided it would be best to call the parents and found that the grandson was not out of town and he had never called. He went back to the wire service and they were able to stop the tramsmission (luckily). There is always someone out there trying to make a buck (or much more) from unsuspecting, honest people.

  3.  It’s not always London.  I got one from someone who said they were in Paris.  What made it more believable was that she is French.  What gave it away is that her English grammar is impeccable and she is the most savvy traveler I know, and wouldn’t send out a mass appeal.

  4. What’s scarier is that this one isn’t just done by e-mail at random.

    It is also being done on sites like Facebook, where the person’s account has been hacked, and then the messages is sent to their friends. The fact that it comes from such an account lends it an instant level of credibility above and beyond anything e-mail could achieve.

  5. This happened to a good friend of mine who I alerted as soon as I saw the scam email, which indicated that she was traveling through Scotland (I happened to know was not the case) and had been robbed. She is a respected artist of national stature and was completely mortified, as her email account was one that she used for business as well as for personal use, so that her email list numbered in the thousands. She dealt quickly and well with handling the aftermath but says that she still worried about looking “like an idiot” to her contacts and that it took her weeks to deal with the aftermath. 

    While these escalating, “e-soap opera” scams continue to play to our emotions, from greed/entitlement (such as “emergency”  business propositions hailing from foreign nobles of third world countries, promising a rich reward if we would only allow them to transfer their wealth into our bank accounts while they plan their escape to freedom) to now prey on our desire to help a good friend in a dire emergency, they all fail the “smell test” when you think about it. Which is why, even if you have the tiniest question in your gut that your friend/family member needs assistance, pick up the phone and call him/her in real time. Had my friend not been able to immediately respond, I would have waited a bit and tried again by phone and every other means but THAT email address. 

  6. Timely article — just received an email today from a friend seeking $1250 to return home from London.  Quickly learned she hasn’t been to London, but is safe, altho with hacked email contacts, in Atlanta. 

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