I’ve received several variations of the e-mail message below in the past few weeks claiming that someone I know is stranded abroad with no money and needs help. In EVERY instance, not only was the person not stranded, they weren’t even traveling. I imagine that many of you are aware of this scam, but I was recently contacted by a friend who received one of these messages from a mutual acquaintance and asked me if I would be sending money. NOT!
This message is a scam, pure and simple.
“I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, I came down here to London, United Kingdom for a short vacation unfortunately I was mugged at the park on my way to hotel where I stayed, all cash,credit card and cell were stolen off me but luckily for me I still have my passports with me. I've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and my flight leaves in a couple of hours but am having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let me leave until i settle the bills. I'm freaked out at the moment. I need your assistance.”
Some of the red flags I noticed were:
- The messages came from people I don’t know well at all and it is unlikely that they would contact me if they were stranded abroad.
- All of the messages were written in the same style. For example, how often would an American write "London, United Kingdom" instead of just London?
- In every message I received the person was stranded in London.
- The messages are pretty vague - a hotel is mentioned but not identified.
If you receive one of these messages, don’t reply. Instead, call the person or send them a message on Facebook to see if they are even out of town.
And, what if you do get stranded abroad? Call someone you trust at home and ask them to coordinate any assistance you may need. Before going abroad, let your close friends and family know where you're going, your itinerary and where you are staying.