The "I've been mugged in London!" email scam

Well, this morning has definitely been interesting. I woke up to an email from my sister, Sarah, that basically said that she was in London, had been mugged last night and had everything stolen, and now needs $1,800 to pay the hotel and get back home. I laughed when I saw it because 1) If Sarah was in London, the entire world would know about it - she’s wanted to go there for years! 2) She just took a trip to Orlando. There’s no way she can afford London right after the trip to Harry Potter World, and 3) The spelling and grammar were perfect. I laughed it off and called my mom to make sure Sarah knew so she could change her passwords on her account, and also found out my aunt had gotten the email as well and called (she said the same thing about the spelling!)

After I got to work, I noticed that “Sarah” had signed in to Yahoo IM, so I sent a message to her saying she needed to change all her passwords because I got a spam email this morning. The response was something like “I was serious and really do need help. Please send money.” I told the person that I find that hard to believe since Sarah was just in my mom’s living room about 15 minutes before. The response? “It was an urgent trip.” Yeah, did you use the TARDIS to get back and forth? That or teleportation are pretty much the only explanations for that kind of world traveling.

My stepmom decided that she wanted to see if she could catch whoever it was, and actually got them talking. They gave her an address and wanted her to wire $1,000 to them so they could “come home.”  They insisted that it be done Western Union, and said that she couldn't call the hotel directly because "their credit card machines are faulty." She called the police, who sent someone over to the house, and they were able to trace the person. Unfortunately, nothing could be done since no money changed hands, but Debbie did eventually tell them that they were crazy and she knew it wasn’t really Sarah. I also found out that Sarah had the person’s email address from where they hacked her yahoo account, and I think it’s been sent over to the police as well. She now has her account back, and in her message to let me know, she misspelled “couch.” Yep, definitely her! ;)

I told my dad this morning that I couldn’t believe Debbie was involved in some kind of internet sting operation, and that Sarah had actually been hacked. Thankfully Sarah has her account back and I don’t think any major harm was done. I did learn a few things today, though, that may be helpful to others:
  1. Change ALL passwords for ALL your accounts (bank, facebook, twitter, credit cards, etc) immediately!
  2. Contact everyone you can that is in your address book to let them know that you were hacked, and not to be fooled by the emails.
  3. Contact someone at your local police department, or if money has been exchanged, the FBI. You can contact them here.
  4. If you have a yahoo account, it is possible to get your stuff back. You can email account-security-help@cc.yahoo-inc.com or call 866-562-7219.
  5. There is also a great article here that talks about what someone else did in a similar situation. Ours didn't escalate as far as this one did, thankfully, and the information is excellent.
It seems that we’ll have a happy ending. I just hope that no one else has to go through this, or even worse, gets taken by the scam.

Things I’m thankful for:
1) This situation was resolved quickly
2) No one (that we know of) lost any money
3) My sister has her account back
4) Sarah’s dyslexia
5) Family that’s willing to alert her to problems


Kahla said...

I go that same email, im'd them, they said nothing. Kudos to Debbie!

You know Cathy's has been hacked too, but they are just sending out spamming sites.

Kris Stepney said...

It's a good thing they didn't hack into her bank directly! Yikes! Was it someone local that did it? Personally, I think they should have been arrested for impersonation with attempted theft but I'm no lawyer. Things like that though (scams) make me mad. Grrr