Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Warning! Beware of emails from "friends in distress"

I got an SOS email from "my friend" Benjie early this afternoon asking for help because he's stranded in Africa while attending a leadership program on youth, HIV/AIDS, etc. He left his lil bag in the taxi and lost important personal belongings including his wallet and passport. And so he needed to borrow at least $2,000 or else he'd be booted out of his hotel room.

At first glance, I found it strange because knowing Benjie, he would not send such a panicky email. A person of great faith, I know he has more faith in his God than in his friends. Yet, what if it really came from Benjie and as mentioned in the email, he would be turned over to the Hotel Management probably to be locked up somewhere?

Immediately, I replied and asked him to text me if indeed it came from him. I surmised that Benjie would definitely be on roaming because he'd be busy monitoring the preparations for their upcoming seminar. I tried calling him on his mobile just to make sure and if indeed it was true, I could quickly mobilize other friends to help him. When he didn't answer his phone, I thought he'd probably be in Africa after all. To be sure, I called our common friend Ammi and asked if she was aware Benjie left the country.

She said no and suggested I try calling Benjie's wife Hazel. I called their land line but it was on answering machine mode. I left a message. After a few minutes, I called again. Thankfully, Hazel answered the line. By this time, she had already read my email to Benjie. She was also concerned about it. What if their friends who got the same email fell for it? It was not unlikely considering that Benjie and Hazel are doing ministry work and they do have supporters.

Moral lesson #1: Talk to your friend first before sending help. Surely, you know your friend's voice.

Moral lesson #2: Always look-out for telltale signs. Somehow, you know your friend's personality, writing style, and maybe, even activities.

Moral lesson #3. Verify with others. Always check with common friends, relatives or people who know your friend in distress. They may give you a clue on your friend's whereabouts.

Moral lesson #4. Be wary if "your friend" asks you to send money to another person with the excuse that he can't withdraw from his bank account in the country where he's standed.

In this day and age, even scammers can be techie.

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