Santa Clarita Deputies received two separate reports of email phishing related scams from residents who apparently had their Yahoo and GMail accounts unlawfully accessed and altered.
In each case, the residents reported that someone had managed to gain access to their e-mail account, changed their password and sent an e-mail to all of their personal friends and contacts in their account.
The e-mails sent to the friends and contacts claimed to be from the victim.
In one of the incidents, the suspect(s), acting as the victim, sent a fraudulent e-mail that stated:
"I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, my fam and I came down here to London, England for a short vacation unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed, all cash, credit card and cell were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us. We've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in less than 3hrs from now but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills. Am freaked out at the moment."
The email was then signed with the account holder's name.
When the suspect(s) received an e-mail reply from a concerned friend or relative of the victim, then sent a second e-mail thanking them for wanting to help and asking them to wire 1,250 British pounds (more than $1,800 U.S dollars) to a Western Union office in the United Kingdom.
In the second report, the circumstances were similar in that the victim was in Europe and had lost her wallet. Each time the suspect(s) would ask to be contacted via e-mail.
In the second case the suspect(s) stated the following:
"Hope you get this on time? Sorry I didn't inform you about my trip to UK for a program. I am having some difficulties here because i misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel which contained some cash, credit cards and some other valuable things. Presently, my passport and my things are been held down by the hotel management pending when i make payment. I will like you to assist me with a loan of $1,550 to sort-out my hotel bills and to get myself back home. I will appreciate whatever you can afford to assist me with, I will Refund the money back to you as soon as i return, let me know if you can be of any help? ASAP. I currently don't have a phone where i can be reached. Thanks!"
Sheriff officials say in these types of scams the e-mails commonly contain grammatical errors and language inconsistencies.
It does not appear as though any of the victims' friends in these two cases actually wired money.
Instead, they called their friends to inquire if the e-mail was true and made them aware they had received it.
Santa Clarita detectives are continuing to investigate these two cases.
It is a felony under California Law to alter computer system data or an e-mail with the intent to defraud.
However, these cases usually cross many jurisdictional lines and when money is wired to another country it is very difficult to ever recover it for the victim.
So to help prevent future victims Sheriff's officials are reminding all residents about the prevalence of these types of money transfer scams. They can range from simple requests to elaborate claims, schemes, and scams like this current email.
Another such scam that is prevalent is the "Grandma Scam."
This scam occurs when a grandparent receives a call from a person claiming they are their grandchild. They tell the grandma they are in some kind of trouble, usually an automobile accident, are in the hospital or are under arrest and need bail money.
The person generally has the grandchild's name, and is quick to answer questions.
The caller usually begins the conversation by saying, "Hi Grandma, it's me, your favorite grandchild." The caller then goes on to make a pitch about being in trouble and in immediate need of money. Many times they claim it is the only call they are able to make.
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station and other authorities encourage family members to explain these types of scams to elderly people and all their friends or relatives.
Sheriff's recommend they hang up if they receive a call like this or, at the very least, verify with other family members prior to sending or wiring any money, even if the caller asks them to hurry and please not tell anyone. Tell them not to reply to similar e-mails requesting wire transfers.
The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station is advising all residents to avoid falling victim to these types of scams by following a few simple guidelines:
- Be wary of appeals that tug at your heart strings, especially pleas involving a loved one or friend in trouble.
- Ask specific questions and obtain addresses and telephone numbers -- Then verify it.
- Be leery of anyone asking you to immediately transfer money whether over the phone or via e-mail.
- Do not provide any credit, bank or other personal information until you have verified the circumstances and who it is going to.
- Call a family member, the person you received the e-mail or phone call from, or local authorities immediately.
- Create a verbal and/or e-mail pass-code or password you can use with your friends or relatives in the event of an emergency. Make it a unique word or phrase only the two of you would know. If they claim they forgot the password that should be another warning sign.
- Remember, avoid rushing to send money. Take your time and verify where it is going
Residents can report non-emergency crime anonymously by visiting the following link: Crime Tips  or calling (661) 284-2-TIP.