The next paragraph of the letter was obviously more specific. It read:
“The total sum of money that I need, would be 970 GBP (which is about $1700) to sort out the bills so I can make arrangements and return back. I'm in panic now, although I wasn't hurt because I complied immediately. The police only asked me to write a statement about the incident and directed me to the Embassy. I have spoken to the Embassy here but they are not responding to the matter effectively. Let me know if you would be able to help me with the money or any amount you could afford. I will gladly accept it and I will refund you the money with interest upon my arrival. I can only receive money here with my passport via the Western Union Money Transfer service. This service is available in any bank. Below are my details you will need to make the transfer on my name. After the transfer, just email me the money transfer control number [MTCN]. I will greatly appreciate your kindness and fast response.”
When one is under emotional stress or anxiety, the ability of reasoning and analysis are generally the casualty. That was so with me as well. After the initial phase of distress was subdued a bit, I gave a second look to the message. A few questions struck me: why did the gentleman – who was based at Mumbai in an unrelated job – go to Dundee, and that too, for a Conference? Why did he not contact his family-members and friends at Mumbai? How come he remembered my email ID but not the contact number? Was he there all alone? What were his colleagues doing? Why did he not contact the Organisers?
One element of suspicion gave rise to another doubt ...... and still another. ‘There is something fishy in the entire issue’, I thought. Then suddenly an idea struck me. Why not ring up the man’s cell to see if it was really non-operational? To my utter surprise, the answer in his distinct voice was clear and emphatic. “No, no, I didn’t go anywhere”, his response was categorical. “I am still at Mumbai. And I never sent you any email.”
It dawned on me at this stage that someone obviously hacked my colleague’s email account to impersonate and cheat others. A clever way to manipulate people emotionally for making easy money!
This real-life experience is highlighted to caution you against unscrupulous elements who do not hesitate to exploit your finer sentiment and use all possible tricks to make you part with your hard-earned money. The lessons of the story are obvious and apparent.