I received an email yesterday from a friend, who has a lot of credibility with me, asking me for money to pay the immigration officials in Turkey. I trust my friend, since it was actually his email that he was using his nickname in the email, so I really thought it was him. Turns out that his email account was hacked.
It wasn’t just a simple case of an email with a suspicious link. We ended up having an exchange. Below was the first email that I received. I crossed out the name for privacy purposes:
Subject: I hope you get this on time!!!
I’m out of town suffering a terrible incident, I need your urgent favor.
Please email me back as soon as possible.
So I responded with:You may have noticed that there is no website link in the email, so it looks pretty legit. It also looked like a mass email to whoever can receive it first. Nothing too suspicious here.
What favour do you need?
The reply was where the scam comes in:
I’m sorry to bother you at this moment but i really need your help. I’m istanbul, Turkey at this moment on vacation. I was scheduled for departure by 10:45 a.m yesterday but there was a problem with my flight re-schedule. I’m being held up by the Immigration who claimed I evaded some necessary charges(which evidently was not my fault) when I re-scheduled my flight. They are requesting me to pay a penalty fee of $2,000 usd in cash at terminal 8. This is totally absurd, I have explained to them that I was not asked to pay any charges earlier but they are not even listening to me. I was wondering if you could loan me some money to clear the charges, I promise to refund it to you as soon as I arrive home.
You can wire it to my full name from a western union outlet around you. I can receive it there within minutes right after you have wired the cash to my name. you can send it from any western union outlet around you or probably send it online through their website.Here are the details needed to get it to me;
Receivers Name: (insert name)
Address: Cevizli Mahallesi Bagdat Cadde No 515 Maltepe.Receivers Country: Istanbul, Turkey.
As soon as it has been done, kindly get back to me with the confirmation number. Let me know if you are heading to the Western Union outlet now.
The receiver’s name was my friend’s full name. I thought that was nuts, why would the government implement such a ridiculous fee right? That’s the best way to discourage tourism. So, below was my reply:
That doesn’t sound right at all. I really don’t think that you should be paying this amount. It really feels like they are scamming you. Can you elevate this to another level? Can you pay with credit card?
Hey, I was thinking, mine as well get some points out of this! Anyway, this is what came next:
I can’t use my credit card right here but if you can loan me the money i promise i will refund it once i get back tomorrow unfailinly with interest.
I actually considered helping him out. After consulting a few friends I was suggested to just give him a call. Guess what? When I called him, he was sitting comfortably on his couch, at home, watching TV.
I think the moral of the story is pretty straightforward. If you ever receive an email like this, just call your friend or family member to confirm that you are in fact emailing each other.
Conversely, if the situation was reversed, if you are in a situation where you actually need money, you should call your family or friends directly, so that they don’t have to question whether it is a scam. It’s like when you are in prison and need someone to bail you out, you would need to call them. You can’t email them to bail you out.