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Beware of the Friend in Distress Scam

Updated on May 21, 2012
Avoid the Friend in Distress Scam
Avoid the Friend in Distress Scam | Source

Beware of the Friend in Distress Scam

You may have seen an email that comes from a distant relative or acquaintance explaining that they have had an emergency and are in desperate need of your help. Often the email has an urgent timeline that expresses a tremendous need for you to act quickly on behalf of the sender. There are generally significant repercussions if you are not able to help, such as jail time, missing an international flight, or even physical harm. The emails are almost always from someone you know, but not someone you know really well, Attached is an actual example of one of these emails:

"I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, my family and I came to London, England for a short vacation unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed, all cash, credit card and cell were stolen from us but luckily we still have our passports with us.

We've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in less than 3hrs 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.

Am totally freaked out and scared. I am really sorry for this but I need your help urgently..."

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If you have seen a similar email, you no doubt immediately wondered if it was real, and whether your friend or family member was really in danger. This is, of course, a scam, and it is especially insidious because it plays on the best of your nature. The fraudster is hoping to catch you off guard and intends to use you desire to help against you. As with most frauds, the friend in need con is fairly easy to avoid if you simply take a few steps to protect yourself.

The first and perhaps most obvious step is to simply delete the email and move on. That said, if you choose this path, you should also take some other precautions. Change your FaceBook password. It is imperative that you make sure your FB account is still secure. You must also lock down your privacy so that only your friends can see your information. From a fraudsters perspective, knowing your friends and family can be tremendously valuable, so take that option away be closing any open profile information. You also want to check your other social media accounts and be sure you are not voluntarily providing information that a thief might use against you. These are simply precautions, but they are incredibly valuable in reducing your risk.

As with many frauds, the Friend in Distress Scam is obvious if you are appropriately skeptical. Don’t let you good will get in the way of your clear thinking. Your diligence is the single most important tool you have in reducing the risk of becoming an online fraud victim.


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