Friday, February 5, 2010

I Am Not in London, Destitute and in Need of Cash

Yesterday I had planned to blog at last about my wonderful trip to India. But my husband and I were awakened at 4:30 a.m. by a call from worried friends in Spain. They had received an e-mail that said I was in London, had lost my wallet, and needed cash. After reassuring them I was right here in Sacramento and fine, I rushed to my computer and found myself locked out of my e-mail account. From my gmail I notified everyone I could think of not to open any e-mails coing from my msn account, as it had been hacked.

Well, it wasn't hacked at all. I was scammed into giving out information the day before, and I lay out my story here for whatever reader stumbles across it as my own small "public service". The scam is a three-step deal, and here is how it works:

Step 1: I received an e-mail purportedly from the Windows Live Hotmail Team. It looked quite legit. The e-mail stated that numerous attempts had been made to register on my account and that it would be closed unless I could verify I was the proper owner. To do that, I needed to give my name, date of birth, country, and password. Yes. My password. At first I hesitated. (Reader, listen to your intuition!) But then I decided it was legitimate. After all, they weren't asking for credit card information or anything like that, right? So I provided the info and was assured my account would be continued.

Step 2: A few people were sent e-mails stating that I had failed to let them know about the conference I was attending in London. Unfortunately I had left my wallet on a bus and now I didn't have any of my money or credit cards. Could the recipient send me $2000 that I would repay as soon as I got home? No return address was given. So, once I got things sorted out with msn, I was tempted to think it was just a malicious prank. Nope. That brings us to Step 3.

Step 3: My astute niece in France wrote how sorry she was I was in trouble and while she couldn't send a lot of money, she would do what she could. She immediately received the following reply, which she forwarded to me at my gmail:

"Thanks a lot for your response and concern,But the best way for me to receverd the money is by western union money transfer you can send it to my details below through western union money transfer to my below information,I will appreciate whatever you can afford to help me with."

The address where my niece was supposed to wire the money: "121,Kensington High StZip code : W8 4PTState : LondonCountry :England." (Reader, if you are an Internet Scam Detective, please take note.)

The reply continued: "Send it today as soon as you receive this e-mail and once you have it sent,send me the money transfer control number (mtcn) with details used in sending it like below information1.) MTCN (10 DIGIT NUMBER)2.) EXACT AMOUNT TRANSFER AFTER WESTERN UNION TRANSFER FEE....3.)SENDER FULL NAME AND ADDRESS..... I awaits your reply."

I have reported this to two agencies concerned with phishing scams. But, after getting my account straightened out, running various virus checks on my computer, and spending an entire morning re-notifying people that my msn account is okay now, it occurred to me that I might help a few strangers by putting this on my blog. I am thankful that only a few letters went out before I notified msn of the problem. Once I had my account back, I was able to read the replies and no money was sent, thank goodness.

Meanwhile, the trip to India was fabulous. I can't wait to blog about it tomorrow. (Today I have errands and a dental appointment and I'm eager to get back to work on Granny's Jig.)

Yesterday did have a bright spot, however: My art club has grown. I have sixteen students now, ages 7-12, and they are all enthusiastic little artists. (When I finish telling about India, I'll probably blog about them a little. They are a wonderful group.)

Until tomorrow, ciao.

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