Several weeks ago, I posted the story of a Westport woman who nearly fell victim to a phone scam.
Today’s story — about an online version — does not have as happy an ending.
The saga began when Marleen Salko — a Westport resident for 47 years — met with her landscaper. She told him she was leaving the next day on vacation. She did not say where. Then she headed out on errands. She said she was going to the bank.
Dozens of friends told her: Your email was hacked. Change your password.
She tried, but could not. She couldn’t even get into her email, to warn her contacts not to pay attention to the message she had supposedly sent.
One of the calls was from her landscaper. He did not leave a message. Marleen assumed he was calling about her lawn. She had so many calls and texts, she replied only to those who left messages, or seemed concerned.
Finally — the next day — an AT&T tech guy helped her change her AOL password.
Eight days later — finally back in Westport — she emailed her landscaper. He replied: “Are you OK?”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
She listened in horror, as the story came out. The landscaper had received one of her hacked emails. With limited English, he did not realize this stilted language was a scam:
Hope this note finds all well with you, please i really need your urgent help. presently i’m out of the country to Manila, Philippines for a short vacation and unfortunately i’m having a serious network difficulties with my bank. unable to transfer out here and can’t even access the ATM as planned. have been so stranded and confused. I’m thinking if I could get a quick loan of $2,100.00 from you or anything you can afford if not all? to enable me to complete my activities here. I promise to refund your money in few days as soon as I return, let me know if i can count on you so I can send you my details.
The landscaper knew she was on vacation. She’d told him she was going to the bank.
He had been married a few months earlier. He told his wife the story. And, he said, “A while back someone helped me out. It touched my heart.”
She advised, “Do you whatever you feel you should do.”
So he gathered his cash. In the midst of his busiest season, he left his workers. He headed to Western Union, at Stop & Shop, to wire Marleen the money.
But the scammers were not through. Using a host of excuses — exchange rates, settling the hotel bill, buying a plane ticket — they convinced the landscaper to send money 6 different times.
In all, he wired $6,248.25 to the Philippines.
She is aghast at what happened. “He works so hard. He built a business, and employs several people. He loves our plants, and our garden.”
So Marleen has come up with an idea to help. She’s created a GoFundMe campaign. But she’s not asking for a lot.
“If just over 6,000 people contribute a dollar each, we can pay him back,” she says.
It’s a great idea. There are 2 ways to help.
- Click here to contribute.
- Forward this story to as many people as you can, on all your social media outlets.
I’ll let you know when the $6,000 goal is reached.