Earlier today, I got this email.
Where are you presently?. I need your help for something very urgent so please get back to me via email as soon as you get this message.
The signature line was that of an old friend of mine from Sri Lanka and with her correct professional affiliations and degrees, and the return email address was the one I had for her in my address book.
But I am cynical enough to suspect scams and although I had not seen this one before, I looked it up and sure enough, it was one.
I quickly emailed my friend’s brother to tell him to inform his sister by phone that her email account had been hacked. He wrote back that that had indeed happened and unfortunately his own daughter had fallen for the scam and given the scammer some information though not much. My friend in Sri Lanka and her niece (and who knows how many others) have now got to go through the tedious business of trying to stem the damage.
I am just passing this on to alert others that one should never respond to such emails or give information without contacting the sender and confirming that this is genuine. If email is the only means you have to reach your friend, then you can reply and ask them to give you information that a scammer could not possibly know.