Scammers get creative with traveling friend pleas

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

When Jim Tucker of Corinth checked his e-mail Monday, he was still a little tired but he noticed an e-mail from a friend who needed help.
Tucker said the e-mail was from a man he has known for 15 years who travels regularly. It explained his friend had been mugged at gunpoint and lost his money and billfold, leaving him stranded in the Philippines.
“I started to see what I could do to help him check out of the hotel and get a taxi to the airport,” Tucker said. “I went to the Western Union Office and got ready to do a cash transfer.”
Before the transfer went through, Tucker received a call from his friend letting Tucker know his friend’s e-mail account had been hacked.
“He learned the e-mail had gone to everyone on his address list and called to see if I received it,” Tucker said. “He was in California, and not the Philippines.”
Tupelo Police Capt. Rusty Haynes said the scam used on Tucker is one of the more inventive e-mail scams he’s heard of. Others like it are becoming more common.
“The only way to defeat that is to try and touch base with whoever is asking,” Haynes said. “Most of the time they will ask for things like account numbers, social security numbers or routing numbers. Those are red flags.”
Tucker said he has received similar scams from the e-mail accounts of people he didn’t know as well but since this was a close friend who traveled often, he didn’t think twice about helping out.
Haynes said it is always a good idea to try and call or make contact with someone before wiring them money.
He said another tricky scam he sees happens when someone is selling a large item online.
“Say you’re selling a motorcycle on Ebay for $3,000 and someone sends you a check for $4,000,” Haynes said. “They’ll tell you to go cash the money order and then send the $1,000 back to whatever address it may be. Then they have the check from you for $1,000 and you’ll get a call from your bank saying the $4,000 check is bad.”
He said someone trying to overpay or have extra money wired to another address is a red flag.
“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” Haynes said.
jb.clark@journalinc.com