Don’t Let Your Guard Down!

by Chris Bjorklund

It’s easy to get complacent when we’re all so distracted by what’s going on in the world. Unfortunately, distracted people can be easy targets for all kinds of scams, especially online scams. Here’s a case in point.

About three weeks ago, I received an email from an acquaintance asking me if I had an Amazon account (red flag). Nancy said she was having trouble with her credit card and wanted to buy a $200 Sephora gift certificate on Amazon to surprise her niece for her birthday, which was the next day (red flag).

I thought it was an odd request. Why was she asking me? Why wasn’t she asking her own family or a close friend for help (red flag)? That prompted me to check the sender’s email address. Often, scammers use a name you would recognize but the address is unfamiliar. In this case, it was Nancy’s email address that I had in my address book. The sign-off was also familiar—she always uses her initials rather than her name.

So, wanting to help and being in a distracted state of mind, I responded that I did have an Amazon account and left it at that. The individual wrote back asking me again to make the purchase for her niece. I decided that this was too weird, so I just ignored the request and forgot about it.

Sure enough, a few days later, I heard from mutual friends that Nancy’s account had been completely taken over by hackers who were perpetrating this fraud. To remedy the situation, she had to set up an entirely new email account. Hopefully her alert to those who were contacted didn’t arrive too late.

This email scam must be pretty effective—look what landed in my inbox two weeks ago. This time, it was from a different acquaintance, but it had the same format and come-on. I quickly recognized the rip-off, ignored it and let the person know. I’m sharing it with you verbatim just to make sure you won’t be caught off guard!


Good Morning,

I need an urgent favor. I’m supposed to get an iTunes gift card OR eBay gift card for my niece. It’s her birthday but I can’t do this now because I’m currently traveling and I tried purchasing online but unfortunately no luck with that. Can you get it from any store around you? I’ll pay back as soon as I am back. Kindly let me know if you can handle this.

Sorry for the inconvenience.