Consumer alert: No, you don’t have a friend who was mugged in London today


Watch out. Someone pretending to be a friend is out to make a quick buck today. Don’t fall for it.

The scam, which I first wrote about last year, steals email passwords and then sends a message to your contacts, pleading for money. As I noted in a follow-up story, the swindle is relatively easy to spot — if you know what to look for.

I’ve had three emails this morning, which suggests the cybercriminals have hit the jackpot with a new phishing technique.

Here’s the first one (mind all the typos — I’m not correcting them).

Hi,

I really don’t mean to inconvenience you right now but I made a quick trip to London and had my bag stolen from me in which contains my cell phone, passport, cash and credit cards.

I’ve been to the embassy and they’re willing to help with my documentation but I just have to pay for my hotel bills.

Unfortunately, I can’t have access to funds without my credit card, I’ve made contact with my bank but they need more time to come up with a new one.

Please let me know if you can help me out with some funds which i will give back to you as soon as i get home, i can forward you details for transfer. You can reach me via email or the hotel’s help desk. I hope to hear from you soon.

And here’s another one.

I’m writing with tears in my eyes,my family and I came down here to (Buckingham shire) United Kingdom, for a short vacation unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel we stayed,all cash credit cards and cell were stolen off but luckily for us we still have our passports with us.

I have been to the embassy and the Police here but they’re not helping issues at all and our flight leaves pretty soon 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.Please be so kind to reply back so I can tell you what to do and how to get some cash to us.

I’m freaked out at the moment

If you think you won’t fall for it, think again. Here’s a teacher who got taken by it and lost more than $6,000.

My best advice? Ignore the email. You might also consider contacting your friend who is “emailing” you and letting him or her know the account has been compromised.

I thought engaging the scam artists might be funny, but that was before I learned about the reader who lost six grand. There’s nothing funny about that.

Also, give your passwords to no one. The only time you should be surrendering your Gmail or Yahoo! password is when you log on to the Gmail or Yahoo!

(Photo: Da vy D/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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