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Friend Stranded in Foreign Country Scam Emails

Summary:
Email supposedly from a person known to you claims that he or she is stranded without money or papers in a foreign land because of a robbery and asks that you send funds urgently via a wire transfer to help the person return home (Full commentary below).



Status:
Emails are designed to trick recipients into sending money to Internet criminals

Example:(Submitted, June 2009)
Dear Friend,

How are you doing? Hope all is well with you and everybody?

I am sorry I didn't inform you about my traveling to England for a business trip and right now, i am stranded here and need to get back to Australia without delay.

I need a favor from you because I was robbed on my way back to my hotel suite'

The robbers carted away with my bag containing my wallet,phone,flight ticket and other valuables.

I will like you to lend me the sum of $3,500 US Dollars or any amount you can afford as half bread is better than none so that i can sort out my hotel bills and get myself back to Australia.

I promise to pay you back with an extra $1,000 US Dollars as soon as i return home in a few days time so kindly let me know if you can be of help.

I was told the fastest and safest way to receive money in seconds is through western union {since that is what works here}.So if you can be of help,you can send the money using the details below:

Reciever Name: [Removed]

Address : [Removed]

To get a list of western union money transfer agents close to you,go to the link below and enter your full address:

www.westernunion.com/info/agentLocatorLookup.asp

Please,as soon as you send the money, i will like you to send an email with the transaction code i will need to pick up the money. I will be back here in couples of hours to get the transfer details, please do it without delay so I can get back to Australia.

After I receive the money, i will email you on the arrangements to get back home.

Thanks once again and i will really appreciate if you can be of help.

Love [Name removed]



Commentary:

©iStockphoto.com/ Art Wager

Stranded
Beware of scam emails that falsely claim that a friend is stranded in a foreign country and needs your help
Imagine that you receive an email from a friend or colleague claiming that he or she is stranded in a foreign country and desperately needs your help to get home. The email originates from the friend's real webmail account and may even include the same email signature that your friend usually uses when emailing you. Thus, you might be inclined to believe that the email was legitimate, at least at first glance. However, the emails are a clever scheme by Internet criminals designed to trick people into sending them money.

This scam has two distinct steps. The first step requires the scammers to hack into a random webmail account. There are various ways that the scammers manage to achieve this, including using a webmail phishing scam attack. In such attacks, the scammers will send out large numbers of bogus emails that try to fool users into providing their webmail account login details.

Unfortunately, at least a few of the recipients of such phishing emails will fall for the ruse and submit their webmail details to the scammers. Armed with these details, the scammers can then login to the compromised accounts and begin part two of their nefarious scheme.

Once they have hacked into an account, the scammers can then send an email with the false claims about being stranded and in need of money to all the email addresses included in the account's address book. Since the messages are being sent from the hacking victim's own webmail address and are likely to include his or her real name and email signature, at least a few recipients are likely to believe the claims in the email. Of course, many will quickly realize that something is not right. They may know for a fact that their friend has not travelled overseas as claimed or they may suspect a fraud attempt. But even if only one contact in a large address book falls for the ruse and sends money in the belief that he is helping a friend in dire need, the scheme will well and truly pay off for the scammers.

I have seen many different versions of these scam attempts. Names and other details differ depending on who's webmail account the scammers have hijacked, as do the countries where the "friend" is supposedly stranded. The amounts of money requested in the messages may also differ. But, in spite of such superficial differences, all such messages are versions of the same basic scam. Sadly, many people have become victims of this scam and lost money to these criminals.

Be wary of any email that you receive that asks you to wire money, even if the message appears to come from a friend. Moreover, users of webmail should make sure that their account details are as secure as possible, and be wary of possible phishing scams designed to steal their webmail account details. Many people may have several webmail accounts, some of which are not often used. Thus it is a good idea to check all webmail accounts regularly to ensure that they have not been compromised.





References:
Webmail Account Phishing Scam
Check The Size of Webmail Inbox Phishing Scam

Last updated: 18th June 2009
First published: 18th June 2009

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen