In this scam, it is typical that someone's web-based email or facebook account has been hacked (either by phishing and someone accidently giving up their password or just by software that goes through millions of combinations and once in awhile hits it lucky and guesses the correctly combo - particularly when people's passwords are easy to guess). So this scam email looks like it is coming from someone you know. I can relate to this. It happened to me on my hotmail account (and I wouldn't have considered my password easy to guess!)
Then they pretend they are in trouble and need money fast - via Western Union... sound familiar?? Really, scammers would really have to go back to the drawing board if Western Union was just willing to create a system where their transactions were verified and traceable. That they are not is why scammers have earned such a great living utilizing Western Union.
Okay, here's the email (and notice that classic weird period after the sign-off name... that is in almost every scam email and I don't know why - must be the software they use to generate these emails).
Subject: TRAGIC NEWS (they put the name of someone you know here) HELP NEEDED
I'm writing this with tears in my eyes my Family and I came down here to Madrid,Spain for a short vacation,unfortunately we were mugged at the park of the hotel where we stayed all cash,credit card and cell were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us.
We've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and our flight leaves in less than 3hrs from now but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the bills.
Am freaked out at the moment.