Inclement weather resurrects the “friend in need” scam

This recent spat of snowy weather has grounded may planes and stranded many passengers in Europe. It has also prompted scammers to resurrect en masse the tried and true friend in need scam that almost always involves a fake message from a stranded friend who got his documents and money stolen and asks the recipient to send him some money.

CBC reports on an instance when this scam almost worked. One Graham Withers received the following e-mail from his friend Krista Muir’s Gmail account:

My bag got stolen. I’m stuck at the airport. I’ve got no visa, no passport. Could you just help me out for a little bit? I’ll pay you back as soon as I get home.

Muir’s a musician, so the story didn’t seem so far fetched. Withers replied to the e-mail asking the amount of money needed. The scammer asked for $2,000 and requested for the money to be transferred via Western Union.

Luckily for him, he contacted a mutual friend of Muir’s to check the story, and they established it was a scam by searching the London telephone number that was included in the message online, and found out that it was linked to a variety of scams.

In the meantime, Muir found out about the scam while she was at her university in Montreal, when her professor showed her a printout of the e-mail (which was, of course, sent to every contact in her Gmail account) and asked her about it. When she tried to access her e-mail account, she discovered she was locked out.

Since this is an often used scam, and many people know about it, I often wonder that those who fall for it don’t try to contact the person by phone – and not the one given in the e-mail. In this day and age when everybody has a cellphone, what would it cost to try to ring the person up? If the phone is stolen, it will be turned off or nobody will answer. If it isn’t, you’ll be sure it’s not a scam.

Don't miss