E-mail message for help a fake

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Retired Acadia University professor Vincent Leung had his e-mail account breeched recently after he inadvertently replied to a message asking for verification.

The result was a blanket message to all of his Hotmail contacts asking for money. The message suggested Leung was in Europe on volunteer work for a charity and had lost his wallet. Contributions to pay his hotel bill and return Leung home were requested.

He said he learned of the breech when a friend in Hawaii phoned to ask if he’d actually sent an SOS. “Then I felt violated,” he said. “I’d been fooled. This is very common, but people still need to be warned.”

According to CNN, American Bryan Rutberg’s friends got scammed Jan. 21 when his Facebook status suddenly changed to this frightening alert: "Bryan NEEDS HELP URGENTLY!!!"

Thinking he had been robbed at gunpoint in London and needed money to get back to the United States, one friend wired $1,143 to London in two installments, said police in Bellevue, Washington. Meanwhile, Rutberg was safe at home in Seattle.

In response to the trend, the Better Business Bureau has issued a warning on its web site, intended for Facebook's 150 million users: know who your friends are and keep your sensitive information private.

Organizations: Retired Acadia University, Better Business Bureau

Geographic location: London, Europe, Hawaii United States Bellevue, Washington Seattle

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