A friend of a friend narrowly avoided it. At least two of my acquaintances didn’t. The way it works: you receive a call supposedly from your friend or relative in distress. Russians are artistic SOBs, they can imitate voice pretty well. Today’s example involved a call from a kid at the police station about to be charged with causing bodily harm in a fight. 30K roubles ($1000) put on police investigator’s telephone account will close the matter. Fortunately his mom was smart enough to ask which police station it was, and then called the kid, who was found happily sleeping through his history lesson. In another case the mailbox was broken into and a story of lost money and documents was e-mailed to everyone in the inbox, with a request to do a WesterUnion transfer. That time it worked and cost D. $1500. In the past I received several text messages, signed with names of people I knew, asking me to make a deposit urgently. BE AWARE THAT THIS “FRIEND IN DISTRESS” SCAM IN COMMON AND THE PLAY IS PROFESSIONAL. Always double and triple check every request for money.
..As I’m writing this a few cases of foreigners scammed by the a similar method come to mind. Their Russian friend (usually from the “Russian bride” category) would claim to be arrested, in hospital, or stuck in the airport with no documents and no money.
At the same time remember that people do get in trouble. Once I misdiagnozed a distress call as “scam with 98% probability”. Guess the message is not to lose your head..
Hm.. I recall how back in 1997, when I was a naive newcomer here, I was duped of $500. By someone whom I knew! The fellow created a sense of urgency, got my money, and was gone home to Chechnya. In these days it was still unthinkable for me to raise my guards because of person’s ethnic origin. Now I do. And be aware of any request or situation that leave you with no time to think. Pressure means scam.