Dear friends, family and anyone within email range. I just want you all to know that I am not in the Philippines — and I have no plans to be in the Philippines.
Furthermore, I want you to know that if I ever do go to the Philippines, I will do everything in my power not to get mugged, losing all of my cash, credit cards and cell phone and everything except, apparently, a really good Internet connection.
More important, if I ever do go to the Philippines, and if I ever do get mugged and stranded, and if I ever lose everything but my Internet link, I promise that I will not email you saying "I am writing this with tears in my eyes," and I will not ask for your financial support. It will not happen.
>But here's the key. Please read this part carefully. If at any time you do get a message from me from the Philippines saying that all of these things have happened, that I've been mugged and the police won't help me and that my flight is leaving soon, I give you permission to delete it. Just trash it.
I even absolve you of any guilt you may feel for not coming to my aid. Even if there is a remote chance that the note came from me — and there is none — just chalk it up to my imprudence for traveling to the Philippines, which apparently has become the Mecca for traveler muggings.
But don't feel sorry for me. Really. Because if I ever do travel to the Philippines, and if I should fall in harm's way, and I am so desperate as to email you and all others and I am rejected, the situation will be so dripping with irony and coincidence that I will be able to write a book and make lots of money. Much more money than I lost during the mugging, because I usually don't carry a lot of cash when I travel, which would especially be true in the Philippines. Not that I've been there.
So again, I implore you. Don't send money. This is especially true for you, Mom.
While on that subject, I want to speak to all the grandmothers out there.<NO1> (Some grandfathers need to hear this <NO><NO1>as well, but it mostly concerns<NO><NO1> grandmas.)
<NO>If at any time you get an email or phone call from someone calling you "grandma" claiming he or she is stuck in a foreign land — perhaps claiming to be in a Mexico jail — and pleading with you to send money for bail, just hang up. I know this goes against every fiber of your being. After all, there aren't enough Band-aids in the world to count how many times you have come, and would come, to the aid of your grandchildren. But I encourage you, hang up. This is especially true if the caller pleads with you not to tell "mom and dad." Big red flag.
In fact this goes for any other message, whether it involves a plea for help, a job opening or a "golden" business opportunity, that requires secrecy and a wire transfer. Hang up or hit delete.
As for the "grandparent scam," that's been floating around since 2008. Why? Because it works. According to the American Association of Retired Persons, more than 25,500 older Americans reported sending $110 million to scammers posing as family members during 2011 alone. Just before Thanksgiving, an 88-year-old grandma in Omaha thought she was helping a granddaughter who was stranded in Peru. She wasn't. She ended up losing $23,785.