Recently, I received the following email message from a relative:
Sent: Thursday, November 01, 2012 11:30 AM
To: undisclosed recipients:
Subject: Manila, Philippines : (Sad News) : Shirley XXXXXXXXXX
Just hoping this message reaches you... Well, I'm sorry for this emergency and for not informing you about my urgent trip to Manila, Philippines but I just have to let you know my present predicament... Everything was fine until I was attacked on my way back to the hotel, i wasn't hurt but I lost my money, bank cards, mobile phone and my bag in the course of this attack.. I immediately contacted my bank in order to block my cards and also made a report at the nearest police station. I've been to the embassy and they are helping me with my documentation so i can fly out but I'm urgently in need of some help from you to pay up my hotel bills and my flight ticket back home... My return flight back home is scheduled to leave in few hours from now... Please i need your help..."
The bottom of the email had the person's standard, valid signature with her office contact information. Legit email or scam?
To me, it read like a scam. My relative uses much better punctuation and grammar. Plus, I didn't think she was traveling abroad. So, the simple next step was to call her via a land-line phone or other separate method to confirm things.
I called her, left a voice mail message, and she replied via email a day later. She confirmed that she was not traveling abroad, and that heer email account had been hacked.
Identity thieves and scam artists are creative and persistent. There are a variety of "phishing" (e.g., email) scams and "smishing" (text message) scams. Learn to recognize them. Remember, you can always call the company directly and confirm whether or not they sent the suspect text message (or email).
So, a word to the wise. When you receive a suspect communication, confirm it with the person (or company) first via an alternate method. If you receive a suspect text message, call or email the person. If you receive a suspect email, call the person. Even better, talk with them in person.
While waiting for the person to reply, you can always check one of the hoax websites, like Snopes. Your telephone company's website probably lists the types of phone and text scams that have been reported. Your Internet service provider's website probably lists the types of email scams that have been reported.