Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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Online scam sets off nightmare scenario for Plainfield man victimized by hackers

By KEN SERRANO

PLAINFIELD — The calls to Mike Bocknack started flooding in not long after 8:27 a.m. on Dec. 8, a
Wednesday.
A message went out to his list of contacts on his Yahoo! e-mail account, saying Bocknack was in the United Kingdom and in trouble.

He needed money and he needed it fast, according to the message.

So when he fielded those calls from his Plainfield home, he was puzzled.

It didn’t take long for him to discover he was the victim of a hacker who tapped into his
account and sent out the message under his name.

“I don’t know how they got into it,” he said.

The e-mail started like a lot of scams:

Am writing this with tears in my eyes, my family and I came over here to Scotland, London for a short vacation. Unfortunately, we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed…Well I really need your financial assistance.

Please, Let me know if you can help us out? Am freaked out at the moment!!

There are red flags in the message but the writing is not exactly the fractured English of those entertaining “Nigerian letter” requests to transfer billions into your account.

And this scam included a personal touch. It had Bocknack’s name on the e-mail and the line he uses to advertise his catering business: “Catering to your taste.”

While the e-mail contains hallmarks of an Internet scam, that tag line could easily throw off a friend.

And Bocknack travels to the United Kingdom every year, he said.

“It was very likely that I could have been in London,” he said.

Bocknack who runs a charitable organization to save and train Rottweilers and is heavily involved with an organ donating group, has an extensive contact list of people involved in helping others.

Some were alarmed to hear he needed assistance.

A few responded and were greeted with messages like this:

Glad you replied back, I need you to loan me $1,750 USD to settle the bills and get a cab down to the airport. I will def refund your cash as soon as i get home. You can have it wired to my name and location through Western Union.

The scam artist then provided an address in Glasgow.
Apparently, not all of his contacts received the e-mail message.

Mary Ellen McGlynn, a friend of Bocknack’s, said she has heard of similar scams and was not fooled.

“I knew enough to know it wasn’t him,” she said.

McGlynn did what Internet safety experts recommend. She called Bocknack, alerting him to the scam.

Others made some effort to send money, Bocknack said. But it’s unclear if they were duped.

Bocknack said at least 25 people called him.

He tried to get into his account with his password, but could not. After several tries, his
account was shut down by Yahoo!, he said. He has since taken back control of the account, setting a new password.

Bocknack is not alone.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center, a collaboration of the FBI and the National White
Collar Crime Center, a nonprofit membership organization, sent out an alert in July, warning people about what it calls “social engineering” scams. Those scams involve compromised e-mail or social networking accounts.

Jeannette Toscano, spokeswoman for the National White Collar Crime Center, said the center began receiving reports of the scam in June.

The scammers attack e-mail and social media pages by sending worms to unsuspecting users through links or downloads, Toscano said.

“As long as there is e-mail, e-mail scams will happen,” she said.

The desire of people to help a friend or loved one frequently overwhelms any suspicions.

The scammers “prey on the emotions of their victims,” she said.

She offered a few basic tips: Create good passwords, change them frequently, do not open e-mail if you don’t know who it’s from, and certainly do not click on links or download anything from an unknown source.

The center urges anyone who has been the victim of such a scam to file a complaint at http://www.ic3.gov.

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January 12, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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