Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

Beware of the Message!

Teens tend to call anyone they meet on-line a “friend”.
More than enough has been said about the perils of this – how the lovely young lady who is so keen to help your daughter with her Italian homework is really an aging, balding, Macintosh-clad Lothario who would be grooming her for online exploitation.
Today, however, we will be focusing on another facet of “friendships” – the ones where contacts have their accounts hi-jacked by third parties, who then go on to ask your children for money, while pretending they have found themselves in dire circumstances.
The other day, a friend of mine had barely left my house, when I received an e-mail purportedly from her.
My Dear Tanja (and she had never addressed me like this before!)
I really hope you get this fast. Am in a really bad and terrible state right now, I traveled with my family to Manila Philippines for Holiday and Tour but unfortunately we misplaced our wallet and cell phones on our way back to the hotel we lodge in after we went for sight seeing. The wallet contained all the valuables we had. Now, our passport is in custody of the hotel management pending when we make payment.
I am sorry if i am inconveniencing you, but i have only very few people to run to now. i will be indeed very grateful if i can get a loan of $2,000 from you. this will enable me sort our hotel bills and take a cab to the Airport. I will really appreciate whatever you can afford in assisting me with. I promise to refund it in full as soon as I return. let me know if you can be of any assistance. Please, let me know soonest.
This particular friend and I have been buddies since we were in single number ages; I know that her English is perfect. Besides, since we live in Europe, we use British English – and this e-mail was in American English.
It was clear that whoever had hijacked her e-mail address book was sending long-shots haphazardly. They could not have known that we are “real life” friends and not merely “virtual” ones.
It got weirder from there.
On spec, I shot back an e-mail saying “I am worried. Call Me”, using a shortened form of her name that she absolutely hates. I waited.
Quick as a flash, the reply came back. Sure enough, it was signed as though by her, with the moniker she detested.
Am so glad you replied back,I can’t call or receive calls here because the hotel management would not allow me have access to any of their phone facility which is the reason why i need you to help me,You can have it wired to my name via any Western Union Outlet around you….. I’ll have to show my passport as ID to pick it up here and i promise to pay you back as soon as I get back home hopefully today.
Again, I noted that the syntax and spelling left much to be desired; and besides, there was also a different return e-mail address from the one in the previous e-mail. This, of course, would ensure that any monies would get directly to the perpetrator of the scam, even if the real owner of the original address would meanwhile have twigged about the potential swindle.
There followed the person’s name and address (which I was supposed to know anyway) and an address, with the ‘order’:
Here is my info where you will wire the money to:
The address, for what it’s worth, was:
Block 26 st Joseph Village Trece Materez
Manila Philippines
Out of curiosity, I put this in a search engine, and it came up, with a slightly different spelling as a House for Sale, as is often the case. Nobody would be living in this vacant property, so it would be relatively easy to crack open the letter box and steal the mail… hopefully, a handful of cheques-in-the-post if enough people decided to cough up without verifying whether the original mail was genuine!
There was even more. Of course.
As soon as it has been done, kindly get back to me with the western union confirmation number… Let me know if you are heading to the Western Union outlet now…
Oh, yes. These people did not even know that I live in a different time zone, and that it was around midnight when they asked me to inform them whether I was headed out the door.
Meanwhile, I called my friend and told her to change all her e-mail addresses and social sites passwords, which she immediately did.
I found it amusing that after she had told me they needed money to get home, she was apparently suddenly in the black again, with enough cash to return home and pay me back as soon as she got there. So, I ask myself, why was it that she was not allowed to access her own bank accounts if she had the money to pay off whatever debts she had incurred in her place of lodging?
The plot behind this dodge was a sieve.
I have been told that such letters, when formulated to be addressed to teens, will contain slang words and expressions such as “Mom’ll kill me”, to make them sound more authentic.
Please warn your teens that sob stories like these are barefaced lies, meant to skim money off them with no chance of redress.

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Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

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