CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Experts say people should be on alert online after a 72-year-old woman’s email was hacked and her friends also targeted.
The suspect, pretending to be her, emailed her contacts about a fake emergency situation to try to get their money.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) says it’s become a more prevalent scam because of recent data breaches.
NBC Charlotte’s Alex Shabad spoke to the victim and to experts about what you need to know to protect yourself.
The police report shows the victim knew something was wrong with her email account when she was contacted by 23 of her friends. On Monday, she showed NBC Charlotte exactly what the suspect wrote.
It is as dramatic as it is fake. Peggy Quinn, 72, read an email that appeared to be from her.
"I was in California, my nephew had been hurt in an accident, he didn’t have insurance and please lend us some money like $6500," says Quinn.
Quinn says she knew something was wrong when her contacts started reaching out to her.
" I got a call from my sister in Michigan then I got a call from my brother in California," says Quinn. "Twenty-three people contacted me to tell me I had been hacked."
"A lot of these have stemmed from some of the larger data breaches like at Target or Michaels, where the scammers got literally millions of people’s email addresses," says Tom Bartholomy, president of BBB.
The BBB says if you are hacked, you should immediately notify your contacts and change your password or even better, eliminate that email account altogether.
If you receive an email like that, experts say you should call to confirm.
"If they’re your friend or relative, call them," says Bartholomy.
"Knowing that they could get the information they want probably, that’s really scary. And do they have my address? Do they have my phone number?" says Quinn.
Quinn is not aware of any close friends or family losing money, but she says she has hundreds more contacts potentially at risk. She has a cautionary message for others.
"Be as smart as my friends were and don’t respond," says Quinn.
The case remains under investigation.