5 On Your Side

E-mail scam targets address book friends

Posted March 23, 2010 5:20 p.m. EDT
Updated March 23, 2010 5:58 p.m. EDT

— Most scam e-mails count on people's greed or even desperation for quick, easy money. But one scam targets those who are kind, generous and just want to help a friend.

The e-mail sent to Becky Lytle said that her friend lost her passport and "misplaced her bag" on her way to the hotel.

The letter said “please assist me with a loan of $2,500 or whatever amount of money you can afford to lend to me to sort out my hotel bills and book a flight back home.”

At first, Lytle was alarmed.

“You want to help a friend and so, at first, you're like ‘oh dear’ until you really start looking at it,” she said.

After rereading the e-mail, Lytle was almost certain it was not from her friend, but she wanted to be sure.

“I said, ‘If this is really you, tell me about the circumstances under which we met,’ because they're fairly unusual,'" Lytle said. "And I got an immediate reply, ‘Oh I don't have time to do that. The manager's pressuring me for the money. You know that it's me. Wire me the money."

At that point, Lytle said she knew it was not her friend.

Chances are Lytle's friend's computer was hacked. She may have opened an attachment or replied to a phishing email with some personal information. The scammer then had access to all of her e-mail contacts and created an e-mail that looked like it was from her friend.

Lytle said she wants to make others aware of this scam.

If your e-mail is hacked into, experts say to run antivirus software immediately then change your password.