Email scam targets Nimbin woman
A Nimbin woman holidaying on the NSW south coast this week was oblivious to the chaos that erupted after her email account had been hijacked by scammers in far-off Nigeria.
In a new twist to and a combination of identity fraud and Nigerian letter scams, the hackers used the email account of retired school teacher Sue Stock, 60, to appeal to all her email contacts to send money to Nigeria, saying she had been robbed and bashed on her way to an AIDS conference and had ended up in hospital.
In poor English, the hackers asked her friends to immediately send $2800 through Western Union in her name so she could cover medical expenses and her return ticket home from Nigeria.
As secretary of the Northern Rivers Greens, Ms Stock had many contacts, including Sydney-based Greens MLC John Kaye and Mullumbimby-based Greens member Giovanni Ebono, who received the emails and immediately set about investigating it when their suspicions were aroused.
But Ms Stock was away and unable to be reached by friends worried about her welfare and wanting to let her know her Yahoo email account appeared to have been hacked into.
I was 100 per cent convinced it was not genuine and tried everything I could think of to get to the bottom of it. I contacted Yahoo to report the cracking of one of their accounts and to AusCERT (the national computer emergency response team), the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Australian Federal Police and NSW Police, all to no avail, Mr Ebono said.
Mr Ebono said he even managed to get hold of a contact name and phone number of the alleged hacker in Nigeria and had tried to alert Yahoo so they could catch the identity thief red-handed.
This is a golden law enforcement opportunity that is slipping through our fingers, he told them.
Your customer has been personally and professionally embarrassed and significantly inconvenienced because of a security breach. Because I cannot contact her, I have let you know about the breach of your security that has affected her, he emailed Yahoo customer services.
Mr Ebono said what gets me is that we dont have any official capacity or policy to catch one of these people red-handed. He said it was frustrating that no-one notified Nigerian law enforcement officers so they could investigate.
Its amazing that it took three or four of us (her friends) to get to the bottom of this. We managed to contact the scammers, get their phone number and found out that the perpetrator is a serial fraudster, yet law enforcement agencies did not seem interested.
After leaving several messages for her through friends, Ms Stock finally contacted The Echo yesterday (Wednesday) as she made her way back home to Nimbin from the trip down south.
It is totally weird, but even more weird because I was actually out of town at the time so no-one knew what was going on, Ms Stock, photographer for the Nimbin Good Times, said.
It was only on Tuesday night when she went to her brothers place at Greenwell Point and used his computer that she noticed she could not log onto her email account. It was then she realised her account had been hacked and the password changed.
I checked for emails on the Nimbin Good Times account, and went wow when I saw all these messages from people expressing concern and asking me to reply urgently I realised then all the mayhem it had caused, she said.
The whole thing has been shocking people have been trying to email me and couldnt get to me. Its also frustrating because I recently applied for a town-planning course at UNE and was keen to hear back from them, so I hope their admissions centre havent got one (scam email) too.
Its absolutely a new twist on the old Nigerian letter scam. I never, ever, ever open emails or attachments from strange or unknown sources three to four years ago I did inadvertently open one before I was aware of Nigerian scams, but you tend to recognise these scams now. I dont know how they pin-pointed me, hacked my password and accessed the address book, she said.
Her partner, Bob Dooley, contacted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and logged the identity-fraud complaint.
Im shocked by it and worried for other people, particularly the elderly, Ms Stock said. And Id like to apologise to all my friends in Nimbin and elsewhere for the inconvenience all this has caused them.