Identity Theft Secrets Reader’s True Crime Story: Traveling email scam

A reader who was shocked to be the target of an e-mail scam contacted us today.  E-mail scams are not at all uncommon, so why was this so unbelievable to this reader?  Because it almost worked.Here’s the background.  This reader has traveled for several years on bus tours, always with the same guide.  Her travel guide is someone she has come to know well and trust.  She frequently gets e-mails about up coming trips that she may be interested in.  Usually the headings will list month of the trips for a group of offerings or the destination if it is a promotion for a specific destination.

This morning she received an e-mail from her travel guides e-mail address with the subject “this is urgent, please read.”

“This was unusual,” our reader from Virginia says, “but I thought that maybe it was a last minute deal on an unsold seat.”

Here’s what the reader found inside:

“Its me, i really don’t mean to inconvenience you right now. I made a little trip to London, and i misplaced my wallet that contains my passport and credit cards. Just hearing from me like this, sounds a little odd, but it all happened very fast. I’ve just been issued a temporary passport and also my ticket, but I’m short of funds to pay for the bills here. I’ve also been trying to reach my credit card company, but from the message i just got, i’ll need some verifications like answering my home phone and that will only happen when i return to the States. Please, can you lend me some funds to secure the bills? I’ll be willing to pay back as soon as i return.

Please respond as soon as you get this message, so i can forward my details to send the money via western union, or you can contact me via the hotel’s desk phone. The numbers are, 011448717947613, 011448717942394 u can replace the 011 with +44

I await your response.”

(name of travel guide was here)

Our reader says, “I was really thinking, oh no, he’s in London and he’s in trouble.  Fortunately, I had read enough of your post at identity theft secrets to be wary.”

What were the clues that this was a hoax?

-The lowercase “i” through out is common in hoax e-mails and was not common for this professional.

(Still, our reader admitted she was second guessing that thinking that if someone were in trouble, they would be typing under duress and not as careful as usual.

-Odd phrases like “I await your response,” are also common in fake e-mails and just not likely to be used by a friend.

-Being asked to call a strange phone number.  Even if London, it would make sense for someone in trouble to have you call his or her cell phone number.

-The statement that the credit card company wouldn’t be able to help him until he answered his home phone doesn’t ring true.  Some people don’t even have home phones and credit card companies are used to helping travelers and have other means of verifying their identity.

Thankfully, our reader didn’t call the phone number.  What would have happened?  Would she have been charged an outrageous amount for the phone call or would a scam artists on the other line continued to urge her for personal information to help her friend in trouble?  This time the hoax didn’t work and is being reported.

We’re so happy that our articles on avoiding scams have helped another reader.  Have you received a fake e-mail bait that almost hooked you?