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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Recent Email Scam To Beware Of

Local women unwilling centerpiece of e-mail scam

Published Saturday, February 16, 2008
Vickie Moyle of Nenana and Margaret Sanders of Fairbanks want people to know that neither one is trapped in Africa — and please don’t send money.
Moyle is director of the Nenana Tortella Council on Aging, and Sanders, 83, was director until three years ago.
And that is where things get confusing for anyone who received an e-mail Tuesday from Sanders, signed by Moyle, saying that Moyle was in Kano, Nigeria, attending a program on “Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS, Poverty and Lack of Education” at Bayero University.
None of it was true. And neither was the rest of the e-mail that described Moyle as being in desperate straits since she left a bag with her money, passport, documents and valuables in a taxi and was now in need of $500 to pay her hotel bill and another $500 to get home.
“It has been sent to everybody in the world,” Moyle said Tuesday afternoon, after a day spent trying to explain the Monday “phishing” e-mail she received at the senior center and unfortunately answered.
Even though Sanders isn’t the current senior center director, her name is still part of the center’s e-mail address.
When Moyle took on the directorship, she and the center’s bookkeeper each tried to change the center’s Yahoo e-mail account address to reflect the change, but neither succeeded. So it was left as is, and all was fine until Monday.
On that day, Moyle responded to an e-mail from what she thought was Yahoo asking for an update on the center’s account information. Moyle complied, answering the request in between the many other duties she attends to daily.
“I got something from Yahoo that looked official and answered, and that’s where the danger arises,” she said. “I know better, too.”
Arriving at the Nenana Senior Center Tuesday morning, Moyle found that she wasn’t able to open the center’s Yahoo e-mail account — the password had been changed — and that’s when she realized she had been caught in a phishing scam.
Then the phone calls started coming in — from as far away as Oregon — to get more information about Moyle’s and/or Sanders’ Africa plight, depending on how it was read by each e-mail recipient. Moyle surmises that everyone on the senior center’s e-mail address list had been sent the bogus e-mail.
The e-mail had just enough pathos that people were truly concerned and were willing to send money.
“At first I thought it was some kind of a joke,” Moyle said. “Come on, everyone knows I’m not in Africa and I’m not starving — I’m over 200 pounds.”
But the calls didn’t stop, and Carol Switzer at Denali Center faxed Moyle the original e-mail.
“I’m also insulted if people think this is from me,” Moyle joked. “The grammar is awful and the punctuation is terrible.”
Moyle takes responsibility for the problem. And she contacted the bank and authorities, including the FBI. But Moyle has no way of knowing whether anyone actually did send money. The e-mail said respondents wanting to donate would be sent details on how to transfer the money through a Money Gram or the Western Union.
FBI special agent Eric Gonzalez of Anchorage said similar scams happen all the time and will continue to be launched on unsuspecting Internet users.
“The Internet is anonymous,” he said. “If it looks suspicious, it probably is.”
E-mails received from banks, Pay Pal, AOL or Yahoo may look entirely credible but should never be responded to.
“What they are hoping to do is obtain identification such as a date of birth or password, and once they have that information they can wreak havoc with your information,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez offered advice for Internet users.
“AOL, Yahoo or the bank, they already have your identifying information. They are not going to ask you via an e-mail,” he said, adding that scammers also use the telephone to obtain personal information from trusting people.
“There are bad people out there,” he said. “That is just the reality, and people have to be more cautious.”


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