Last Wednesday I received a mail which seemingly came from an Indian friend. When reading it in the evening, I had a short moment of hesitation, but then I got “trapped” by the story and the fact that certain points in the mail seemed to be authentic – but it was faked. My friend told me he came from India to Madrid to help a niece in health troubles. She had to undergo surgery and since the operation would be too expensive in Spain he decided to bring her back to India. He now asked me for financial help with a substantial sum in Euros, and said not knowing about our financial situation even if I just could help with some part of it would be warmly welcome and he would pay it back as soon as he is back home. He indicated an address in Madrid, with his full name (which isn’t part of his e-mail ID) and “confirmed” to me the e-mail was “really” from my friend and he asked me to transfer the money via Western Union.
So I looked up in our Euro account and saw that there was just enough. I tried to transfer it via Western Union with online banking, but since the opening of the transfer section takes 24 hs, I phoned to the support hotline and a very kind lady told me that I also can transfer the money via Cash International, which would even be cheaper. She then guided me through the process…
Early next morning I woke up with a certain suspicion why my friend had greeted me with “hello” and not the usual “Dear Brother …” Maybe he was under stress, I thought, reminding me that my wife suspects me often to be over-critical.
Later in my office I had a quick look into my private mail account to see if anything had come in from my friend. There it was. He thanked me for the quick response and asked if I could let him know the Western Union code for identifying. I wrote him I had sent the money via Cash International and didn’t get a code but suppose that he will need to identify with a passport.
Only then I saw another e-mail from a Spanish friend who is in Visakhapatnam, India, at the moment, with the header “Urgent”. I opened the mail and read: “The email ID of hotmail xxx has got hacked, and they succeeded. Please don’ t respond to any mail coming from that email ID hotmail. It’s very important that you inform everybody who can be concerned….” I answered, thanking her and telling: “It is already too late, I reacted on the e-mail.”
Since I couldn’t access to the Postfinance account from my office I phoned to my wife and she immediately contacted the support. They said, it’s already too late, the money is out. But they told her to contact the police, and this my wife did. The police then contacted again the security service of the bank and they could stop the transfer process. So virtually “in the last minute” the money was saved. It was only some days ago that I read about the hacking of hotmail and other accounts from big providers, but I hadn’t imagined that I would become a victim and I thought I knew their tricks, being in touch with such questions also professionally.
I sent an information to the mailing list of our group members informing them about the hacked account, and another Indian friend replied: “The hackers always do that and try their luck. But I’m glad the transfer was duly stopped and saved yourself a lot of trouble. There is a blog some victim wrote. Very informative.” And later he wrote: “The fraud e-mails have good language to convince and catch victims. They present the picture beautifully. Quite a few of my friends’ mails have been hacked that way – same – asking for money – stuck in some city! They send them out to contacts in the address book and look for any unfortunate victim to respond! It is really lucky that your transaction was thwarted. I delete such mails and then their address in my book so that I would not forward any mails to that hacked one unwittingly, later on.”
In the evening I heard from an IT-specialist how he got tricked online and lost some money, though he knew very well of possible tricks. And yesterday another friend told me how she got trapped very intelligently through a skype chat contact and lost some money.
We have to be very alert.
A way in the mist leading “nowhere”