DEAR HARRIETTE: I ran into a college friend recently, and we exchanged information. A few weeks later, I got the strangest email from her, asking me to wire her money because she was stranded in another country and couldn't get out. I know that there are scams like this, but I was concerned because I did just run into this woman and it seemed odd to get an email from her out of the blue when I had never received one from her before. I wrote back to her, and she responded that she was glad I had written to her because she was in dire straits. I thought I should send her the money. I told my husband, and he told me I was an idiot to do that -- it had to be a scam. I didn't want to defy my husband, so I didn't do any more.
I feel horrible because she is a nice woman, and I'm afraid she might really be in need. When I attempted to call her, I didn't get through to her. Do you think I did the right thing? -- Friend in Need, Racine, Wis.
DEAR FRIEND IN NEED: It is most likely that the email you received was a scam. Typically, the way it works is that someone hacks into a person's email or social media account and takes over. Had you sent money, it would not likely have reached your friend because she no longer has control over that account.
It is odd that she didn't answer her phone, but there's no telling why. Since you two are not close friends and have not been in communication for a long time, it all seems a bit fishy. You were right to not send money. If she shows up again, either by phone or in person, you can ask her about this situation. Otherwise, stand down. There's something off about this that places her either as the potential victim or as a participant.