This scam has been around for a while but seems more prevalent lately because I’ve received the below message from three of my friends in the last week.
Here’s the message to watch out for.
“TERRIBLE NEWS...HELP !!!
I'm sorry this is coming so sudden, I am in some terrible situation right now and need your urgent assistance. Some days ago,I came down to Scotland,UK on a short vacation,unfortunately I got mugged by some hoodlums. All my cash,credit cards and phones were taken at gunpoint!
It's such a traumatic experience . right now I'm stranded and need help getting back home. I've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not being helpful in any way. the good thing is I still have my passports. Just don't have enough money to get back home. Please I need your help here ! promise to refund you right as soon as I'm back home in a couple of days.
waiting to hear from you.”
What’s this scam all about?
The scammers hacked your friends email account and then sent this message out to EVERYONE in your friends contact list. The idea is to use the subject’s credibility and personal relationships with their friends to get a gullible friend to send the scammers money, usually via Western Union.
What to do if you get this message:
1. Don’t send money – your friend is fine. Call them and check on their welfare if you like.
2. Let your friend know – In most cases the subject of the scam doesn’t even know that these messages went out. Contact your friend and let them know that they’ve been the subject of this scam.
3. Did I mention “Don’t send money”?
What to do if you’re the subject of this scam:
1. Try to change your password – In all likelihood the scammers that got your email password changed it as soon as they could. This way they lock you out of your own email account and prevent you from interfering with the scam.
2. Try to use the “password recovery tool” – In all likelihood they changed the codeword for this tool also, again to keep the scam going.
3. Contact your email provider – Let the support department of your email provider know what’s going on and ask them to put a stop to it. You’re not the first person that this has happened to so they’ll know what to do and will take action right away.
4. Change your other passwords – If you use the same password on OTHER websites then change them immediately. Since the scammer now has access to your email they may see that you get emails from a bank, Facebook, etc. and try to use the same password on those accounts as well. This is a good reason to use different passwords at different websites.
5. Let your friends know that your OK – post a message on Facebook or text / email your friends to let them know that you’ve been subject of this scam and that you are OK and to NOT send money.
What to do afterword:
1. Getting your email address back - In all likelihood you’ll get access to your email address again, it just might take a while. Follow-up with the email provider and ask them how to get access to your email account again. There is no telling if your contacts will still be there or what you’ll find when you get access to your account again but at least you’ll have the email address back.
2. Email lists – You and your friends may end up on the email lists of other scammers so be wary of other scams & solicitations sent to that same email address.
3. Use caution – the scammers got your email address because of something that you did, something that you clicked or something that you typed in. Use better judgment in what you do & enter on-line to avoid falling victim again.
5 Tips to Protect Your Privacy
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. This means that an identity is stolen every 3 seconds, costing the average victim nearly $4,000 and nearly 175 hours to straighten out their problems and their credit. How can you protect yourself from the dangers of identity theft? Here are some suggestions.
Conduct a Credit Check-up – Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to obtain a free credit report every 12 months. Review all three of your credit reports and look for any suspicious activity, unusual or inaccurate names or addresses, or any inquiries that were done without your knowledge. In many states, you may place a 90-day "Fraud Alert" on your credit report, which further restricts access to your credit information. Simply call one of the three main credit bureaus to activate the alert. Here are the toll-free numbers: Equifax 1-800-525-6285; Experian® 1-888-397-3742; or TransUnion® 1-800-680-7289.
Don't Give It Up – Avoid falling prey to phishing scams, both over the phone and through email. In a phishing scam, identity thieves pretend to be someone from your bank or a credit institution and simply ask you for your personal information. If someone contacts you and requests any personal information, don't give it to them. Verify who is requesting the data and why, and then call the institution yourself. One extra phone call could save you a lot of trouble and money.
Stay off the Pharm – While phishing enables thieves to pilfer information from you, pharming is another kind of scam that consists of hijacking your computer and stealing your personal information. A pharming site is designed to look just like the website you're trying to visit. However, enter your information on this fake site and not only can it track your moves within it, it may also direct your computer to give up other personal information at a later time. Be sure you are visiting the correct site, that the address in the navigation bar is correct before entering any information.
Return to Sender – Some scammers simply fill out a change of address form and divert your mail to another location. Others simply steal the mail they want right from your mailbox. The key to avoiding this scam is to know your statement delivery dates and pay close attention to any unusual delays in delivery. A lot of identity thieves do things the old-fashioned way: They rummage through your trash to collect your information that way. Be sure to shred any junk mail or other documents that may contain your personal information before you throw it away.
Opt-out of Special Offers – Visit www.optoutprescreen.com to cut down on the pre-approved offers from credit card and insurance companies. It's also good idea to have your clients opt out as well, especially if they're thinking about buying a home. When people apply for a mortgage, they often become "trigger leads" to the credit bureau, who sell your clients' information to any number of companies. It only takes a few minutes to opt out, but it could spare your clients a ton of junk mail and could possibly save them from identity theft.