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Maretlane becomes victim of email scam


Thabo Maretlane
Thabo Maretlane

Mohalenyane Phakela

T-CONNEXION Managing Director, Thabo Maretlane, has allayed fears he is stranded in the Philippines after he became an unwitting victim of an email con-trick.

According to Maretlane, whose tourism promotion firm is behind the annual Moshoeshoe Walk, an email claiming that he was robbed and stranded in the south-east Asian nation was sent to his contacts on Monday.

The impassioned message explained that he had been mugged at gunpoint by thieves in the Philippines, adding that they should send money immediately.

It read: “Sorry for any inconvenience, but I am in a terrible situation. I came down here to Manila, Philippines for a programme. Last night, on my way back to my hotel room I was robbed at gunpoint, my wallet and other valuables were stolen off me, leaving my passport and life safe. My luggage is still in custody of the hotel management pending when I make payment on outstanding bills I owe.

Describing his friends as his “last resort and hope”, Maretlane – or rather his impersonator – continued: “I contacted my bank via email for a wire transfer but it has proven almost impossible to operate my account from here as they made me understand international transactions take seven working days to be effective which I cannot wait.

“I need you to help me with a loan to pay my hotel bills and get myself home. I will reimburse you soon as I get back home. I will appreciate whatever you can help me with.”

However, Maretlane told the Sunday Express he never left Maseru.

“I have been in Maseru throughout this week and never left for the Philippines. So whatever message is circulating contains lies. It seems someone hacked into my mail account and I was only aware of the matter on Monday, so people should not worry, I am still around and safe,” he said.

Internet security experts describe the email as a classic online con-trick, known in the industry as a “stranded traveller scam”.

Professor Tim Watson, director of the Cyber Security Centre at De Montfort University in the United Kingdom, says: “This particular scam has been going for quite a while now, at least 12 months, and seems to be increasingly popular.

“It varies depending on which email you get, but is always along similar lines. You get an email from a friend saying they have been robbed abroad, and they need money. If you email it, you will get a response telling you where to transfer the funds.”

He added: “There is a community of scammers online who share the most effective email templates.

“They operate from all over the world, although many certainly seem to be based in Nigeria.

“Sadly, the scam is surprisingly effective. We are used to looking out for dodgy emails pretending to be from your bank, but not from people we know and trust.”

To avoid the internet “phishing” scam – which sees fraudsters hack into people’s email accounts and beg their contacts for emergency aid, experts urge users to update their computers’ anti-virus software.


To help you protect yourself from phishing, below are some tips:

  • Guard against spam. Be especially cautious of emails that:

    * Come from unrecognised senders.

    * Ask you to confirm personal or financial information over the Internet and/or make urgent requests for this information.

    * Aren’t personalised.

    * Try to upset you into acting quickly by threatening you with frightening information.

  • Communicate personal information only via phone or secure web sites.

    When conducting online transactions, look for a sign that the site is secure such as a lock icon on the browser’s status bar or a “https:” URL whereby the “s” stands for “secure” rather than a “http:”.

    Also, beware of phone phishing schemes. Do not divulge personal information over the phone unless you initiate the call. Be cautious of emails that ask you to call a phone number to update your account information as well.

  • 3. Do not click on links, download files or open attachments in emails from unknown senders. It is best to open attachments only when you are expecting them and know what they contain, even if you know the sender.
  • 4. Never email personal or financial information, even if you are close with the recipient. You never know who may gain access to your email account, or to the person’s account to whom you are emailing.
  • 5. Beware of links in emails that ask for personal information, even if the email appears to come from an enterprise you do business with. Phishing web sites often copy the entire look of a legitimate web site, making it appear authentic. To be safe, call the legitimate enterprise first to see if they really sent that email to you. After all, businesses should not request personal information to be sent via email.


  • 6. Beware of pop-ups and follow these tips:

    * Never enter personal information in a pop-up screen.

    * Do not click on links in a pop-up screen.

    * Do not copy web addresses into your browser from pop-ups.

    * Legitimate enterprises should never ask you to submit personal information in pop-up screens, so don’t do it.

  • 7. Protect your computer with a firewall, spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Do some research to ensure you are getting the most up-to-date software, and update them all regularly to ensure that you are blocking from new viruses and spyware.
  • 8. Check your online accounts and bank statements regularly to ensure that no unauthorized transactions have been made.


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