How many of you use Sk*pe? I'm betting most of you, especially if you are military or somehow connected to the military. We use it all the time. We talk to friends and family back home, we bought Sk*pe credit and use it to call various places back home, and we use it to communicate with each other when one of us is away. Seriously, living abroad has been made easier and bearable by using the free program. We love it.
Recently an "incident" occurred that may or may not be because of our Sk*pe usage. Im using the * because I we arent 100% sure this is connected. One night last week we video chatted with J's parents. During the conversation, they relayed his grandparents phone number to us so we could give them a call. After we were through speaking with them, we used our credit and called J's grandparents back in the States. We hadn't chatted with them since moving to Germany so it was time for a call. We spoke to them for no longer than 15 minutes and hung up.
Two mornings later, I received two emails from his family asking if we were ok, briefly describing what happened, and urging us to call them asap. I was so confused, so I called his parents. J had already left for work for the day. His parents proceeded to tell me the following crazy, horrible story:
The morning after we spoke to his grandparents, they received a call from someone stating that they had their grandson, were holding him hostage, and demanded $5,000 be wired to them immediately or they would hurt him. They didn't use any names, but J's grandmother thought she recognized his voice and so she said his name. They took that and ran with it saying, "Yes, it is J..." They had someone else pretending to be the grandson crying on the phone asking them to send the money quick. The story was that he had flown to the Dominican Republic, rented a car, and then drove to Haiti. Along the way, he picked up some hitchhikers. While there he was caught with a car full of drugs and was now being held hostage. The story is so far-fetched and so unlikely if you know us, but J's grandparents didn't immediately realize it. I wouldn't expect them to at their age and with their very limited knowledge about our daily lives.
Unfortunately, they believed them and were actually going to wire the money. Thankfully some other family member plus some very smart Western Union people figured out that this was a major scam. Some evil, f*cking douchebags were trying to prey on the elderly and swindle money from them. It breaks my heart that there are people out there like this who take advantage of kind hearted people. It paints such a negative, cynical picture in my mind and I lose a little faith in people each time something like this happens. And I'm a "glass is half full" kind of gal. I have seen this happen only on TV, like in an episode of CSI, but I've never heard of it actually happening to someone.
J's grandparents are old and his grandmother is medically fragile, so this really took a toll on them. I can't imagine the pure terror and panic they must have felt. She was so shaken up, she had to be admitted to the hospital that night with hypertension, anxiety and an irregular heart beat. Thankfully, she only stayed one night and is doing much better.
The moral of the story is this: watch what you say over the internet. Nothing is secure and it's easy to forget that. Try not to talk about exact locations, telephone numbers, travel plans, etc. because you never know who may be listening it. We aren't sure if this is due to our Sk*pe conversation. If it's not, then it's a HUGE coincidence that this happened 12 hrs after we spoke to them.
Be safe everyone and Happy Sunday!