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).