Very interesting and something everyone needs to watch out for.
RCMP Sgt. Paul Proulx said hackers posing as stranded travellers are sending out urgent messages asking for money.
On Tuesday, Graham Withers said, he woke up to a desperate-sounding email from his friend Krista Muir – a Montreal musician — who was claiming to be stranded in London, England.
“My bag got stolen. I’m stuck at the airport. I’ve got no visa, no passport. Could you just help me out for a little bit? I’ll pay you back as soon as I get home,” said Withers, quoting from the message.
He said that it never occurred to him the email might be a scam. “You know about the weather in London. Everything is all backed up. Krista is a musician, maybe she’s travelling,” he said.
“I wrote back and said ‘Hey, that’s terrible! What do you need?'” He got a response asking for $2,000 and a request he transfer the funds through Western Union.
But Muir was nowhere near Heathrow. On Tuesday she was in a university classroom in Montreal, where she quickly discovered what had happened.
“I was called in to my professor’s office. He had a printout of the email. He was like ‘What is this all about?'”
Muir said everyone in her contact list had received the same plea for help and that she herself was locked out of her Gmail account.
She said she felt like screaming, “I’m not in London! I’m totally here, at home in Montreal!'”
Fortunately, Muir said, she doesn’t think any of her contacts actually sent money.
Withers contacted a mutual friend who had received the same plea for help. That friend quickly established it was a scam by Googling the London telephone number the message said to use as a contact.
Withers said the number was linked to a number of recent scams.
Sgt. Proulx said people can better protect themselves against hackers by changing their password often.