Updated: December 14, 2012 6:09AM
The Nigerian prince seems to be on vacation, but his relatives are alive and well and burning up the Internet ...
JOHN: My cell phone pinged one morning at 4 a.m. An email informed me that my sister was in the United Kingdom and had been the victim of a robbery. All of her cash and credit cards had been taken, and she wasn’t allowed to leave London until she paid her hotel bill. Could I please be a good brother and wire her $1,500 via Western Union? Of course, she would pay me back as soon as she returned to the States.
Whoever set up this attempted scam didn’t do their homework. While my sister does travel extensively, we live in the same city and talk on a regular basis. I happened to have spoken to my sister the day before I received this ominous email. I knew she hadn’t left town.
I decided to play along. I emailed back, “Sure, Sis, I’ll be glad to help. Don’t worry about the money. I know you’re good for it. But I’ll have to get to the bank to withdraw those funds, and the banks don’t open for five hours. Can you hold out until then?”
My “sister” said she’d be patient and thanked me profusely for responding.
After I woke up later that morning, I began to receive more emails from my sister, asking whether or not I’d been to the bank. She also insisted I use Western Union to wire the funds and instructed me to send her the confirmation number via email immediately upon doing so.
Around 11 a.m., I emailed “Sis” and informed her I had decided to send the money to her directly using my bank and bypassing Western Union.
Boy, was she angry. I began to receive urgent emails telling me to return to my bank to stop the wire transfer and insisting that this be done only through Western Union.
I continued to play their little game via email until about 3 p.m. I ended the con by telling “Sis” to go do you know what! The emails stopped.
I suspect that someone in one of the hotels where my sister and her husband have traveled was able to read her emails. (Lots of hotels have media rooms where guests can log in.) They obtained some of her recent contacts and passed that info on to crooks.
People need to be very careful when using the Internet while traveling. There’s no shortage of people willing to sell your personal information and use it against you.
MARY: Yesterday I got a “Reply” email (Reply to what, I don’t know!) telling me that I had won $850,000. All I had to do was to contact “George Jones” so he could tell me where to send the $600 “keeping fee,” and then they could release the “cheque.” The $600 could not be deducted from the “cheque” as the taxes and fees had already been deducted from it.
Of course, this had scam written all over it, but I’m sure there are some very desperate people out there who might fall for it. So, if you get an email like this, delete it as fast as you can!
Have you been the victim of a relationship scam? Send your tale, along with your questions and rants to firstname.lastname@example.org.