Authorship credit: Richard M. Lehrer

The following reveals the importance of (i) selecting a strong password (one with at least a combination of numbers and letters) for association with your email account and (ii) confirming all information before sending money in response to any email.

In the coming days you may receive an email from a friend informing you that she was robbed while on vacation and that she desperately needs to borrow some money to get home.  The following is an example of such an email: 

I’m sorry for this sudden request, It’s because things actually got out of control. I’m stuck in Cardiff Wales, UK with family right now, we came down here on a short Vacation, We were mugged and all our belongings including cell phone and credit cards were all stolen at “GUN POINT”. It was a traumatic experience for me and my family. I need your help flying back home as we are trying to raise some money to get back home. The good thing is that we still have our passports but the airline is requesting for extra charges on re-print of misplaced airline tickets and also getting a cab to take us to the airport, Please I need you to loan me some money, I will reimburse you as soon as I’m back home. All we need is $2,550.00 but anything you can spare right now will be appreciated and I promise to refund it to you as soon as I arrive back home safely, I give you my word. You can get it to me through western union, Please get back to me so that I can give you my details to send the money to.

[Signed with friend’s name]

If/when you receive such an email, be concerned, but also be suspicious.  There is a good chance that your friend is not on vacation, but that her email account has been hacked.  While it is possible that you will receive a valid email from a friend in need, be very wary before sending any money to that friend.  Always confirm that the message actually originated from your friend (ask for a telephone contact, ask that information be provided that only your friend would know, or call your friend to see if you can reach them) before providing assistance.  It may delay the process, but it may also save you from being the friend who gets robbed.

Additionally, after the account is compromised, the hackers delete all emails and contact information from the account in an apparent attempt to prevent the account holder from warning their friends.  If you find yourself in this situation, remember that you probably have other social media accounts from which you can warn your friends.  It is important that you quickly post a message on those accounts informing your friends not to send you money and change the password on your email account.