A call to a local police department or the state police can help to confirm that these requests are not legitimate.
Another precaution: If the e-mail message says that it's from Johnny, call Johnny directly, or call his parents to ask them to contact him. In many cases, this step will help to reveal that the request is a scam.
The Marquette Mining Journal reported in its Police Log in the February 2 edition:
9:54 a.m. - Client wiring money to relative in Mexico claiming to be in trouble; believed to be a scam; advised client it is a scam, but they refused to believe it; officer warned them as well, but they sent the money anyway. 600 block of West Washington Street.Even with intervention from an astute clerk (kudos to Check and Cash for being alert) and the local police department, it is not always possible to prevent this kind of victimization.
And the Marquette Monthly published this in its February 2012 edition:
Marquette County Sheriff’s office warns of sweepstakes scam - An unknown caller from a 1-888 number recently advised a Republic Township resident that she had won a million-dollar sweepstakes contest. The caller identified himself as being a representative of Publisher’s Clearing House, in Las Vegas (Nevada). He advised the resident she had won a million dollars and wanted to set a date and time for an individual to appear at her residence to be awarded the prize; all she needed was a “Money Pack” or “Money Order” for approximately $400.00. Publisher’s Clearing House does not notify winners via telephone and will never request payment from a winner to claim any prize. Residents are reminded to use caution when dealing with unfamiliar telephone numbers and unsolicited contacts.Update: See and listen to Stepping Up and Stepping In for an Aging Parent on American Public Media's Marketplace (played on Saturday, February 4).