London Traveler Scam

“I am not in London, I have not been mugged.”
A scam we first starting seeing on social networks at the beginning of 2009 is still going strong. Today, the criminals behind these threats are using stolen (or phished) social networking  accounts, email accounts, and instant messaging and other forms of chat to fool people into parting with their money.

The scam basically works like this. A “friend” contacts the intended victim and tells them they are in London and have been mugged. They are okay but have lost all their money and have no way to get home. They are trapped in a foreign country unless the friend can help them out. All the victim has to do is wire them money for plane fare and their friend can fly home.

This basic scam has been around for a long time, but there are variations. And the twist on this one is your reward is in helping a friend out, not in obtaining some Nigerian prince’s fortune. Now it seems like everyone knows about the Nigerian prince. But the London traveler scam still fools lots of people. Consider this reaction of one Facebook user. “I just chatted with my sister on Facebook and she told me she was stranded in London. She was mugged at gunpoint. …please join me in prayer for this situation.”  

This story has a happy ending. Someone quickly posted the true whereabouts of the sister. And it wasn’t anywhere near London. There was a lot of confusion until someone figured out it was all a scam. Maybe the good news here is the media that enabled the scam also unraveled it. Another person allegedly mugged in London took to his Facebook page to declare, “I am not in London, I have not been mugged.” His friends got the message.

What’s amazing is to see how few people stop to ask, “What is my friend doing in London?” I have always wondered why London is the city the phony mugging takes place in. I don’t think of London as full of muggers. I can think of plenty of other cites that would seem like a more dangerous place to be stranded in. Maybe London is the place most Americans can picture their friends visiting. If you have an idea, then go to our Facebook page and comment on our wall posting.

Obviously, readers of this blog will not fall prey to this scam. Help stop others from falling for this scam by turning the features of social media against the scammers. If you see a friend posting about being mugged in London, or any city, call them out on it. Let all their friends know it’s a scam. And watch out for the next variant of this scam, whatever it may be. The basic rule of thumb here is friends don’t ask friends for money over the Internet.