Stranded Traveller Scams

Outline:
Email that was supposedly sent by a friend claims that he or she is stranded without money or papers in a foreign land because of a robbery.  The email, which comes from your friend’s real email account, asks if you can send funds urgently to help the stranded friend return home.



Brief Analysis:
The email is a scam designed to trick you into sending money to online criminals. Your friend’s email account has been hijacked via a phishing scam and the criminals are using the hijacked account to send out the “stranded” scam emails in your friend’s name. Your friend may be unaware that his or her account has been compromised and is being used to send scam messages.

Example:
Subject: Awful Experience!!!

Hope you are doing well? It takes me great pain to write this email to you and I feel so devastated. My family and I had a trip visiting Manila,(Philippines) unannounced some days back for a short vacation, unfortunately we were robbed at the park of the hotel where we stayed. All cash, cell phones and credit cards were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us.

We’ve reported the incident to the local authorities and the consulate, but their response was too casual, we were told to come back in 2 weeks time for investigations to be made proper, and our flight leaves tomorrow, we’re having problems settling outstanding hotel bills and the hotel management won’t let us leave until we settle the bills. Please I’m going to need some sort of loan from you for us to settle the bills and also get another flight ticket.. Let me know if you can help us out? I look forward to read from you.

Thanks
Jim

 

Example:
Subject: From Ronald [Surname removed] ………. Help!!!

Sorry for any inconvenience, I’m in a terrible situation. Am stranded here in Philippines since last night. I was hurt and robbed on my way to the hotel I stayed and my luggage is still in custody of the hotel management pending when I make payment on outstanding bills I owe. Am waiting for my colleagues to send me money to get back home but they have not responded and my return flight will be leaving soon. Please let me know if you can help and I will refund the money back to you as soon as I get back home.

Thanks
Ron [Surname Removed]

 

Example:

Dear Friend,

How are you doing? Hope all is well with you and everybody?

I am sorry I didn’t inform you about my traveling to England for a business trip and right now, i am stranded here and need to get back to Australia without delay.

I need a favor from you because I was robbed on my way back to my hotel suite’

The robbers carted away with my bag containing my wallet,phone,flight ticket and other valuables.

I will like you to lend me the sum of $3,500 US Dollars or any amount you can afford as half bread is better than none so that i can sort out my hotel bills and get myself back to Australia.

I promise to pay you back with an extra $1,000 US Dollars as soon as i return home in a few days time so kindly let me know if you can be of help.

I was told the fastest and safest way to receive money in seconds is through western union {since that is what works here}.So if you can be of help,you can send the money using the details below:

Reciever Name: [Removed]

Address : [Removed]

To get a list of western union money transfer agents close to you,go to the link below and enter your full address:

www.westernunion.com/info/agentLocatorLookup.asp

Please,as soon as you send the money, i will like you to send an email with the transaction code i will need to pick up the money. I will be back here in couples of hours to get the transfer details, please do it without delay so I can get back to Australia.

After I receive the money, i will email you on the arrangements to get back home.

Thanks once again and i will really appreciate if you can be of help.

Love [Name removed]



Detailed Analysis:
Imagine that you receive an email from a friend or colleague claiming that he or she is stranded in a foreign country and desperately needs your help to get home. The email originates from the friend’s real email account and may even include the same email signature that your friend usually uses when emailing you. Thus, you might be inclined to believe that the email is legitimate, at least at first glance. However,  emails like the examples included above are scams designed to trick you into sending money to criminals.

This scam has two distinct steps. The first step requires the scammers to hijack a random email account. The criminals  commonly achieve this via phishing scam attacks. In such attacks, the scammers will send out large numbers of bogus emails that try to fool users into providing their email account login details.

Unfortunately, at least a few of the recipients of such phishing emails will fall for the ruse and submit their email username, email address, and password to the scammers. Armed with these details, the scammers can then access the compromised accounts and begin part two of their nefarious scheme.

Once they have hijacked an account, the scammers can then send an email with the false claims about being stranded and in need of money to all the email addresses included in the account’s address book. Since the messages are being sent from the  victim’s own email address and are likely to include his or her real name and email signature, at least a few recipients are likely to believe the claims in the email. Of course, many will quickly realise that something is not right. They may know for a fact that their friend has not travelled overseas as claimed or they may suspect a fraud attempt. But even if only one contact in a large address book falls for the ruse and sends money in the belief that he is helping a friend in dire need, the scheme will well and truly pay off for the scammers.

There are many different versions of such scams and they have been hitting inboxes for many years. Names and other details differ depending on who’s email account the scammers have hijacked, as do the countries where the “friend” is supposedly stranded. The amounts of money requested in the messages may also differ. But, in spite of such superficial differences, all such messages are versions of the same basic scam. Sadly, many people have become victims of this scam and lost money to these criminals.

Be wary of any email that you receive that asks you to send money to help a stranded friend, even if the message does appear to have been sent by the friend in question. If you receive such an email, attempt to make contact with the friend via a method other than email. The friend may not be aware that his or her account has been compromised and is being used to send scam messages.

And, to avoid having your own email account hijacked, watch out for phishing scams and malware attacks designed to steal your account details.

Scammers may send out similar scam messages via hijacked social media accounts as well.


Stranded Friend Scam

Last updated: November 19, 2016
First published: June 18, 2009
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

References
Email Exceeded Storage Limit Phishing Scam
Check The Size of Webmail Inbox Phishing Scam