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William's Story - Stranded Friend Begging Message Scam

Unfortunately, I fell victim to a money scam. It was one of those scams that claim that a friend has lost all important passport documents and other forms of identification while traveling overseas and wants you to help him get out of the country.

In this case, the message was supposed to have come from a very good friend of mine and said that he was stranded in Berlin, Germany. This was a friend who I trusted not to lie to me so I sent him some money.

But the thing I found strange was that there was no way to send him the money other than via credit card. And then about a month later I found large bills on my credit card statement. I only sent about 100 Euro to help him, but my statement said that I had sent more than 5000 Euro.

Then I found out my friend had not sent the message at all. Coincidentally, my friend had happened to be out of country when the scam took place, although he was in France, not Germany.

I then realized what had happened and canceled my credit card but not before the scammers had made a further transaction of 8000 euro.

Note from the editor:
Regrettably, William's experience is all too common. People all around the world fall victim to this type of scam everyday. Here's how these scams typically work:

  1. Internet criminals take control of a user's email account via a phishing scam

  2. Once they have hijacked an account, the criminals use the account's contact list to send out "stranded" begging letters like the example included below.

  3. Since the messages are being sent from the phishing victim's own email 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 and send money as requested.

  4. If a victim sends the initial "loan" as requested, further requests are likely to follow. Or, as in William's case, if the victim has disclosed his or her credit card details, the scammers will continue to make fraudulent transactions until the card is canceled or reaches its credit limit.

A typical example:
Subject: Sad News........(PROBLEM)!!!! George S.....

I am sorry for reaching you rather too late due to the situation of things right now, my family and I came down here to Berlin for a short vacation unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel we stayed,all passports and documents stolen. Also our cash credit cards and cell were stolen.

I have been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight leaves pretty soon from now but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us check out until we settle the bills ($2,490 USD), Please reply back and let me know if you will be able to loan me the cash so that i can give you the necessary details. i promise to pay you back as soon as we get home.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you.


William's Story - First Published: April 15, 2013

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