My sister is traveling right now. She's on a month-long experience-of-a-lifetime yoga retreat in India. She's due back within a few days. Yesterday, I received this email from her address, with the subject 'My Terrible Situation':
I'm writing this message to you with sadness. I traveled down to London for a short vacation and unfortunately for me, i was mugged at knife point last night at the park of the hotel where i lodged and all cash, credit cards and cell phone were all taken away.
I've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all, My flight leaves in less than 8hrs from now and i am having problems settling the hotel bills.
The hotel manager won't let me leave until i settle the hotel bills now am freaked out. I need a loan from you to return back home and i want you to get back to me if you will be able to help me.
I knew immediately that it was a hoax, that someone must have hacked her webmail account or she got a virus, but there was that initial panic of 'ohmigod she's in trouble.' because it's plausible - she's traveling. Maybe her plans changed. Etc. My sister-in-law-to-be called almost immediately and asked me about it... she had the same thoughts and concerns. But we agreeded the wording isn't right. She certainly wouldn't have sent a mass email like that and she would have contacted her boyfriend directly to ask for help.
I called our mom right away to let her know it was a scam and posted a warning blurb on my sister's Facebook page. Then I decided to taunt the hacker by writing back and asking what I could do to help. Almost instantly, I got this email:
Thanks for your response. Please, I need a loan of $550 from you and i want you to help me send it via western union to my information below and sin ce i have my passport with me, i can quickly go rush down to the western union outlet/bank to pick up the money and go straight to the airport to catch my flight as am almost running out of my checkin time. Find below is my details where the money should be wired to OK??
Receiver's Name: XXX
Zipcode: WC2A 2AE
Country: United Kingdom
Kindly email me back with the following details as soon as you've have wired the money to me via western union money transfer.
I'm almost impatient to wait for your email. I shall be waiting for your response soon,
And yep, I'm afraid I replied once again, asking for details on what happened and expressing sisterly concern.
I want you to please kindly wire the money to me immediately so i can pay off the hotel bill and go straight to the airport to catch my flight. I will explain things in details to you as soon as i get back home ok?
And once again I emailed back (this is when hubby stepped in and told me to stop baiting the bad guys) but this time I said that it sounded fishy and that I wanted her to answer some questions to prove her identity as my sister.
Meanwhile, my brother called and jokingly said, "I've sent all this money, but she's still not home!" We had a little laugh and he said he'd call our father to let him know, and that he'd already heard from our stepfather wondering if she was ok.
No one has actually heard from our sister, but to our knowledge, she has very limited internet access on her trip. Hopefully she's able to shut down her webmail account as soon as she returns. And hopefully, no one actually sent any money.
There are many versions of this scam going around, but they all pretty much say the same thing: Stranded, send money. It's sad how many people fall for these things, but I guess the upside is that people are willing and wanting to help out their loved ones. The worst bringing out the best, maybe?
So now we all sit and wait for her return so we can talk about what happened, like the gossipy hens we are! Plus, I can't wait to see all the pictures from her trip. I'm so envious!