Was the U.S. Vice President attacked in the Philippines?
No, is the short answer. But when his friends and colleagues received an email saying that he and his wife had been attacked and needed money they could be forgiven for thinking something had gone terribly wrong.
While Governor of Indiana, now U.S. Vice-President, Mike Pence, was the victim of an email scam used often to target travelers. This email scam is widespread and can easily happen to you.
The scam involves a criminal hacking into an email account and then sending a ‘phishing’ email to all of the person’s contacts. Phishing is when someone poses as another in order to get information and use it illegally for material gain or malicious purposes. In the case of this scam, the phisher posed as Mike Pence and claimed that he and his wife had been attacked in the Philippines and needed the email recipient to send money urgently.
The scam relies on people panicking and wanting to help. If the scammer knows what country you are in they can make the fake email sound even more plausible. Out of concern, those who receive the email might quickly agree to send money especially if they can’t get a hold of you. The scammer usually asks for the money to be wired to them or sent through a money transfer as it's non-refundable and difficult to trace.
There are some simple ways to avoid this scam:
Let people know where you are and how to contact you. If they receive an email (or call) they should not respond to it without contacting you first. They should NOT reply to the email but contact you in some other way.
If you are going to be in a remote location where people can’t contact you let your point of contact know so people don’t panic and start sending money.
Tell people that this scam exists – especially close family and friends – and that they should not ever send money to anyone in your name. If you are truly in trouble you will contact them directly.
If your email account is hacked, change your password immediately.
Make sure your malware is up to date and avoid using unsecured WIFI connections.
Send an email to your contact list alerting them that you’re fine and that your account has been hacked.
Need an entertaining video which quickly explains phishing? Watch this: