An Influencer on the Rise
Just as technology evolves, so too do scammers and their tricks. Sometimes, something as simple as an email from a loved one can be a nefarious ruse to part you from your hard-earned money.
Many people can easily fall victim to online scams, such as our fictitious example, whom we’ll call Margaret.
The most important thing in Margaret’s life was her family. She was a single mother, and often worked two jobs to raise her son and daughter. She struggled throughout their young lives when money was a necessity to keep them occupied. When the children were born, Margaret had no idea enriching the lives of young ones could be so expensive, but as they grew up, she learned a hard lesson: that everything in life came with a price tag. Oh, how she cried when young Steven wanted to play Little League or when Sara had her heart set on ballet lessons.
But those enrichment activities filled Steven and Sara with a thirst for adventure, and as they grew into adulthood, they set out to conquer the world. Steven longed to start a family of his own, marrying his high school sweetheart and moving across the country after accepting his dream job. Margaret wished she could see her son more often, but she was happy knowing that he found a fulfilling life.
Sara took a much different path, choosing to explore the world. She traveled to different countries, visiting exotic places, and documenting it all on her social media. The beautiful photos she posted caught the eyes of hundreds of thousands of followers, making her something of a mini-celebrity. Though she wasn’t rolling in money, the ad deals she was offered helped to pay for her travel.
Overlooking The Obvious
One morning, Margaret woke to an email from her daughter stating that she’d lost her passport and needed her mother to wire her money to some city in Indonesia. Margaret tried calling her daughter’s cell phone, but it kept going directly to voicemail. Margaret left several messages, but after an hour she still hadn’t heard back from Sara. Panicked, Margaret responded to the email.
“How did you lose your passport? Are you OK?”
Minutes passed, then Margaret’s email dinged with a response from Sara. “Someon must of stol my bagg whiel i was the beech,” came the reply.
Confused, Margaret read the email a few times. The response didn’t sound like Sara. Her writing was always very precise and had almost no misspellings. But this email was riddled with typos.
Margaret pushed it out of her mind, more concerned with the safety of her daughter as opposed to the content of her writing. She grabbed her purse and drove to the bank, taking a withdrawal of $2,000 as requested from Sara’s email. She then went to a local department store that offered money wire services and sent the cash to the Indonesian city.
Realizing Her Mistake
Back at home, Margaret pulled up Sara’s email and typed a quick response. “Money sent. You should be OK now. Call me when you can.” She sat back in her chair and waited for Sara to reply. She responded quickly before, so as the minutes ticked by with no new email, Margaret’s concern grew.
After about an hour with no new email, Margaret’s cell phone trilled. When she saw Sara’s name on the screen, she let out a huge sigh of relief. Margaret accepted the phone call and, foregoing any pleasantries, asked, “Did you get the money?”
“What money?” Sara replied.
Sara listened intently as Margaret told her about the email she got, the request for money, her trip to the bank and finally to the money wire place.
“Mom, that wasn’t me. I’m in Portland visiting Steven. I only called because I saw a bunch of missed calls from you.”
Though Margaret recognized the inconsistencies in the email, she allowed her emotions to cloud her rational thought. In this case, time would have been on her side if she just stepped back and waited for the return call from Sara. Instead, she fell victim to a common online scam and lost a large sum of money in the process. Our Online Safety courses will teach you to recognize these red flags to help prevent you from being taken advantage of.