Like music, the world of scammery involves variations on a theme. One that has received some attention lately involves elderly folks getting desperate pleas for money from grandchildren supposedly caught up in emergency situations, like the immediate need to post bond after an arrest in a foreign country. The plea often comes in the form of a phone call over a connection so poor the grandparent actually thinks flesh and blood is on the horn. The caller asks that the money be wired quickly. That the money went poof becomes apparent when it turns out grandson Bob all along was at his home in Seattle, or wherever, and not in trouble with the law.
This is known as the grandparent scam, and it’s no stranger to the Seattle area. But this is not limited to grandparents, nor phones. The heist can be attempted online, as I discovered this morning when I got a desperate email in the name of a casual acquaintance from California that I hadn’t seen since becoming New To Seattle last year. A scammer had hacked his Yahoo email account, obtaining a list of stored addresses. That scammer then established a Yahoo email address with a slightly different spelling and started firing off electronic missives.
Call it Dastardly Digitizing for Dollars. It would almost be funny were it not for the possibility that someone actually could get hosed.
Normally, I don’t respond to such clearly dodgy unsolicited email. But this was sort of interesting, and a potential cautionary tale for others. So I decided to play along a bit. I’ve changed the name of my acquaintance. But otherwise, here is the full back-and-forth:
I’m writing this with tears in my eyes, I came down to Paris, France for a short vacation. Unfortunately,I was mugged at the park of the hotel where i stayed,all cash and credit card were stolen off me but luckily for me i still have my passport with me.
I’ve been to the the Police here but they’re not helping issues at all and my return flight leaves in few hours from now but I’m having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won’t let me leave until I settle the bills. Well I really need your financial assistance..
Please let me know if you can help me out?
I’m freaked out at the momentMichael John Smith
Where can I wire money to?
I’m glad you replied back to my email..I just wish you can imagine how terrible i’m feeling right now. All I need is just $1,650 and you can have it wired to me via western union. Here’s my info below:Receiver’s Name: Michael John Smith
Location: 1 Boulevard Du Palais
Paris, 75004, FranceAs soon as it is done, kindly get back to me with the transfer confirmation number.ThanksMichael John Smith
Since you said you still have your passport, please scan the pages with your personal information and photo and send them to me right away so that this transaction can be accomplished. I’m sure you can get the scanning done and sent from a nearby copy shop.
My passport is in custody of the Hotel management until I’m able to settle my bills. My return flight leaves in few hours so i suggest you go to a nearby Western Union store and have the money wired to my name so i can have my bills settled and leave for the airport immediately.Kindly keep me posted with the details.ThanksMichael John Smith
Okay. Ask the hotel management to photocopy the appropriate pages, scan that and send them to me attached to an email. Any hotel that wants to get paid will gladly and quickly do this. Thanks.
Another question: If you’ve lost all your other ID except the passport, and the hotel won’t give it to you, how will you be able to prove your identity at Western Union to claim any money wired?
Hahaha. Bill, I received the same e-mail from our mutual acquaintance. Like how you handled it. This is about the fifth similar e-mail (or a slight variation) received in the last 2 months. Must be the giving time of year. Best wishes for a great Holiday season.