‘Friend scam’ warning

One of the most successful, and largest growing, scams to hit Australia is the ‘friend scam’

One of the most successful, and largest growing, scams to hit Australiais the ‘friend scam’. The scam involves your friend’s email or social media account being hacked and a message being sent out to all of that person’s contacts asking for help. Drew explains how to identify these types of scams and what actions you should take.

Earlier in the week I received the following email from a close friend.

I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, I and my family came down here to Philippines for a short trip and unfortunately we got mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed, all cash, credit card and cell were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us.

We've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in few hours from now but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills,

I'm freaked out at the moment and I need your help.

It just so happened that the friend was sitting next to me. I jokingly asked him if he needed the money to pay his half of the dinner bill and advised him to regain control of his email account through the ‘forgot password’ function.

For many Australians every year, these emails and more recently, social media updates, are no laughing matter. Once the hacker has taken control of a person’s email or social media account, they send messages to the whole contact list of that person. When someone replies, they ask the person to send them an amount of money via Western Union (the amount is generally around $1200) so that they can pay the bill and get on a flight back home. The reason this scam is so successful is that the email is coming directly from a friend and does sound quite plausible. One way to identify a scam email of this kind is to look in the ‘To’ field of the email. You will find that the email will have been sent to ‘undisclosed recipients’.

Whenever you receive an email or social media message of this nature from someone you know, your first action should be to get in contact with that friend by phone (they obviously can’t access their email so replying won’t help). Your friend should then reset their password and scan their computer for viruses (generally it won’t be a virus that has caused the hacking of a password).


    To make a comment, please register or login
    12th Oct 2012
    Contact the fraud squad of your state Police Dept. and ask if you can forward it to them. Some of them "love getting hold of these"
    12th Oct 2012
    it's easy to pick scams as 1/ we do not call them cells here in Oz 2/ Western Union would not be a company anyone here in Oz would consider to use, although it is in Oz, it is seldom used by ordinary people 3/ any email that does not bare your email address as the incoming is not from your friend and has basically been sent to a list of people.
    I have been in this situation, both as someone who has been hacked and as a recipient, in the case of the hack I regained control and advised everyone of the situation (so no-one got hit) in the second case I rang my friend then went round and checked their PC and regained control for them, then advised all their friends of the situation.
    In all cases you MUST assume there is a problem, although I hate to assume it is necessary in this case
    18th Oct 2012
    I had one from a 'family member' asking for money and that the embassy was not helping him. He lived overseas and I had no way of finding out if it was a scam. I returned the email saying I would go to our local police and get them to check what they can do, also with the hotel and embassy, plus the police in the country he was supposed to be in asking them to check and guess what - no more asking, I had an email from him about a week later with a change of address
    19th Oct 2012
    Forward the email to [email protected] If it comes as a text message, forward without comment, to 0429 999 888.

    Remember - ignore it, report it and delete it.

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