A few hours back I received an urgent SOS e-mail message supposedly from a colleague of mine in the government. The message had come from her personal hotmail account and was signed her full real name. It read:
"Hello, I am in England for a seminar. I lost my wallet and am in urgent need of money to settle my hotel bill and other things. Can you urgently send me 2000 GB Pounds? When you reply to this mail I'll tell details of how to transfer the money…"
For a moment I thought this was a genuine message. Since the lady was a close friend and a very respectable person, I was thinking of how to send the money as soon as possible. In the process I had a second look at the message. It was then that I noticed two things wrong with it. One, the message simply started with 'hello' without my name. Two, if she was in urgent need of money why didn't she write transfer details in the original message? That would have saved time.
These two things were telltale signs of junk or fraud mail. So I decided to telephone her to see if she was really in the UK. I dialed her home number in Male (not mobile) and she took the phone at the second ring. She was shocked to hear the story.
These days a lot of hackers get into people's accounts and do all sorts of crazy things. One of the commonest ways of doing this is to lure unwary victims to submit e-mail account details to bogus questionnaire forms. Of course there are many new innovations and methods. We can't be too careful.