Beware of the latest internet scam: Help - I'm Stranded

Thursday, June 17, 2010

By Diane Hettrick

I have been using email extensively for fifteen years and subscribe to over 150 mailing lists. Long ago, I developed a nose for scams, phishing, and other nefarious doings online. Even if I were tempted to believe the latest snare, I am protected from being gulled because I usually get at least three versions from three different sources right away.

Otherwise, even I might have fallen for a desperate message from a friend traveling in a foreign country whose wallet and ID had been stolen, who needed emergency funds to get to the nearest embassy for help.

Sometimes the friend needs cash for a plane ticket or to pay the hotel bill. Sometimes it's an acquaintance or someone you know from an organization you both belong to.

Don't fall for it. I don't know the technology involved, but the thieves hack into the victim's computer and hijack their email account along with their address book. The thieves then send the bogus plea for help to everyone in the address book. The victim, who cannot access their email account, has no idea this is happening until someone calls them on the phone or sees them in person.

In the meantime, if you have rushed to the rescue and wired money to the address given, you have just enriched a thief and encouraged them to continue their scheme.

The latest version of the "help I'm stranded" scam actually starts out by saying that their email has been hijacked.

Be cautious of what you read in your email, check out stories at, and don't send money until you know where you are sending it and who you are sending it to.


joel June 17, 2010 at 11:54 PM  

What's worse are potential scammers are calling friends and loved ones saying they are stranded and need money.

My grandparents got a call recently from "me" saying I was in the UK to photograph a wedding, but something went wrong and I needed $4,000 right away.

It's believable because I have shot weddings and I have traveled. Thankfully, my grandfather was hesitant, and the person on the other end of the line hung up quickly.

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