Stranded Traveler Appeal Scams
One of the latest scams around is the apparent appeal from one of your friends or acquaintances who claims to be out of the country and lost their passport, money and credit cards or had them stolen.
The appeal goes straight into your email inbox because it appears to come from one of your friends email addresses. Actually, what has happened is that your or your friend's email address list has been hijacked. The criminals send out an email, which when you open the attachment, steals your whole address list and then later emails all your friends with a 'stranded traveler' appeal letter. Very often they have spelling mistakes or other clues that help you to spot the fraud.
Here is a sample of the type of emails that are doing the rounds, which I received myself. Fortunately, I wasn't taken in, but another friend of mine was and sent the crook about $500!
Actual Email Sample
How are you doing ? hope all is well with you and family,i am sorry that i didn't inform you about my traveling to England for a Conference.I need your urgent help, I misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money and credit cards are kept. I urgently need a loan of $3,400 from you to sort-out my hotel bills and get myself back home.
I will appreciate whatever you can afford and i'll pay you back as soon as i return. Please help send the money to me via Western Union Money Transfer with my details below
Kindly help me to send it soon and let me know the reference numbers(MTCN) with the details of the transfer.
Your help will be greatly appreciated.
Ways To Tell
The name on the email is always someone from your email list and may even appear to be from a close friend. Look carefully above and you can see the typos and spelling mistakes. There are various variations on this type of letter. The reason why they are abroad changes as well as why they need the money and the amount they want.
Here are some of reasons given for example: - they are on a business or holiday trip and they were robbed. They have to settle their hotel bill, get a new passport, or get a new airline ticket, and have to do this while they are waiting for their credit cards to be replaced. They are unable to get help from the embassy for some unspecified reason and so on.
What If It's Real?
If you are worried about a friend being stranded abroad, first of all try to check by phone to see if they left the country in the first place! My friend was still at work as usual!
If your friend is abroad, remember all foreign countries host embassies and consulates of other countries that will help travelers who are stranded abroad. Every Western country has not only an American embassy but often other consulates around the country, and the staff will help replace a passport or even fly someone home in an emergency.
Try to only contact your friend by phone, rather than by email, because if her email inbox has been compromised you can't be sure that your email is actually reaching your friend.
Remember that 99 times out of 100 this type of email is a scam, so don't send any money unless you speak directly by phone to your friend to find out if they really need the money.