|How the scam worksYou get an email that appears to be from a friend or family member. The message looks harmless and casual—like something a friend might really write. For example, one version reads: “Hi, how are things going with you? Are you busy? I need a quick favor.” The message even ends with “Sent from my iPhone.” |
Concerned about your friend, you reply and ask for more details. The “friend” quickly responds that they are trying to buy a gift card for their niece’s birthday. However, they are traveling and having trouble purchasing the card online. “Could you get it from any local grocery store around you?” reads the email. “I’ll pay you back as soon as I am back.”
The request sounds reasonable. But if you do buy the gift card, your “friend” will ask you share the card’s PIN and/or send a photo of the back of the card. Unfortunately, by doing this you are essentially handing money to the scammer. It’s nearly impossible to get the money back because gift cards do not have the same protections as credit or debit cards.