A scam using hacked email address books has re-emerged in Hawkes Bay and some unwitting recipients of the "we need help" messages have parted with up to $1500.
"It has caught a few people out," Napier Police Crime Prevention Officer Paul Miller said.
"It has been around for a while and crops up from time to time - somehow they [scammers] have been able to obtain someone's email address book and send emails out from that person's address."
The emails ask for financial help and because the person, and the address, are familiar to the receiver they appear to be legitimate.
The sender claims to have been robbed while on a trip overseas and makes an urgent request for money to sort out a replacement passport. The email claims their passport was taken in the robbery along with their cash and credit cards.
Mr Miller said the scammers were mindful that asking for too much might deter the people receiving the email.
They generally requested "only" $1000 to $1500 to get them out of their current situation.
Mr Miller said he had come across one person who sent money off, via Western Union, as the email details were all correct and they were concerned for their friend.
"Out of the goodness of their heart," he said.
Only later did the person realise their friend had not been overseas and they had been scammed.
One man, who asked to be named only as Brian, said his address had been hacked and used by a scammer about three months ago.
A mate, who had received an emailed distress call from him, called to check it out and discovered Brian was not in London and had not been robbed. He was safely in his Napier Hill home.
"I don't know how they got into my email to get the addresses out - but I've changed it now," Brian said.
Mr Miller said changing the email address was his advice to anyone learning their emails had been hacked into and their name used to send scam messages.
"And when people see the words 'Western Union' when it comes to sending money off, the alarm bells should ring."
Mr Miller said transferred funds went to what was effectively a postal centre "somewhere" where they could be uplifted, and it was almost impossible to trace.
"These scammers are very cunning. Once you press 'push' to send the money, then it is gone - you will not get it back."