Have you received an email that looks like it was sent by a friend or colleague that asks if you have an account at Amazon or another shopping website or store?
It could well be a gift card scam like the one I describe below.
Here’s How the Scam Works
You receive an email that asks if you can do the sender a favour, can handle an extra project or task, or a similar type of question.
The email will be signed with the name and position of someone you know well, such as your boss, someone else you work with, or another person you trust such as a religious leader, medical professional, or teacher.
If you reply, you will receive a follow-up email asking if you can buy a store gift card on behalf of the sender. The sender, still posing as your trusted friend or colleague, will make up various excuses as to why he or she needs the supposed favour.
They may claim that they are travelling and can’t get the card themselves where they are located. Or, they may claim that they are swamped with other projects and don’t have time to go and get the card.
They might say that they need the gift card urgently as a present for a family member or to cheer up a sick friend.
Of course, they will promise to reimburse you for the cost of the card straight away.
If you comply and buy the card, the scammer will then ask you to send the card number and other details about the card.
The scammer can then use the gift card to purchase various items, leaving you out of pocket.
Scammers Often Harvest Info Off Organization Websites
To further the illusion of legitimacy, the scammers may use email addresses that look similar to those of the real person they are posing as. At first glance, you might not notice any difference. That, along with the name and position signature, and perhaps a logo or other seemingly legitimate references might be enough to trick you into complying.
Often, the scammers harvest information about people off organization websites belonging to businesses, churches, or schools. They can then pose as the people whose names they have harvested, create “look-a-like” email addresses, and target people from the same organization via the “do me a favour” scam emails.
Sometimes, the scammers may have collected other information that can help them target victims. For example, they may pose as a person that they have learned really is on holidays or travelling.
In some cases, the crooks may use email accounts hijacked via phishing scams. In such cases, the emails may seem even more legitimate, given that they were actually sent from the account of the person the scammers are posing as.
Don’t respond! Contact the Person Directly
If you receive one of these emails, don’t buy any gift cards or send any information until you have directly contacted the person who supposedly sent the message. Call them or send an email to an address you have stored for them. The person can then confirm if the email was genuine.
And, if it wasn’t, you can warn them that their name and details are being used in a scam campaign so that they can warn other people they know.
Screenshot of the scam email
Transcript of the scam email
Subject: A Favor To Ask
I hope this email finds you well, i need a quick favor from you, do you have amazon account ?
Angie [surname removed]
Subject: FAVOR TO ASK
PENNY [name removed]
I need a favor from you. Do you have an Account With Amazon?