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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Public service announcement: who's the sucker?

Well it was nearly me. And I always thought I was safely skeptical. Earlier today I got an email from an old friend with the subject line,

"VACATION MESS !!! HELP NEEDED !!!!!!"

What followed was a fairly plausible tale of being on holiday in the West Midlands (should have been my first clue as my friend lives in Kansas city... with apologies to the Black Country why would she holiday there?) and having been mugged. She had a flight to catch having fortunately left the passports at the hotel but the hotel wouldn't let her leave without paying the bill. There were a number of grammatical errors in the email but my friend is not a native English speaker and I made allowances for stress.

I replied immediately asking for a phone number. She said the muggers had taken the mobile phones and could I wire transfer $2,150 to a Western Union Branch. I asked for the number of the hotel.

Finally my suspicious nature woke up to the fact she was asking for dollars whilst being on holiday in the UK and the fact that the number given for the hotel demanding the money was a mobile. But not before I had checked the balance on my current account.

So I sent another email in which I said, "Forgive my cynicism but this looks like a scam. Can you tell me where and how you and I first met? Then I will ring the hotel."

True to classic con form the scammer raised the ante with this reply,

"Omg, What a million questions!!! why you asking me this as at moment ?? Is
this just because i asked you of help.. why have you decided to treat me
like this, i want you to know that we're meant to help each other. I knew
this is unusual but are the only person i could reach at this point and
i'm doing everything i can so we can work our way out of here peacefully
but there is nothing really working out, most important is that my flight
leaves in hours from now and I really need your help to sort out the hotel
bills. Kindly let me know if you're willing to help us out of this mess ok
tired of your cunning...

I'll be hanging on here to read from you soon."


Well they'll be hanging on for some time. Unfortunately the Met Police doesn't seem to have a cyber crime division any more and as I didn't actually become a victim of crime, according to the nice chap on the police switchboard, there wasn't much point pursuing it.

I thought I'd share..