Why am I getting emails asking me to buy gift cards?
The church office was recently targeted by an email scammer. The scammer pretended to be me and asked Terry to buy a gift card for my (nonexistent) niece. Terry warned me about the attempt, and I notified Google. The diocesan office was recently targeted in the same way by a scammer pretending to be the bishop. Luckily no one in either office has fallen victim to it, but I wanted to let you all know about this scam as it seems to be a common one.
How do I tell if it’s a scam?
This scam seems to always involve asking people to buy a gift card for a family member. They say something like, “I forgot my niece’s birthday is today, and I promised to get her $100 gift card at a store. Could you please get the gift card and send it to her? I’ll pay you back!” If you receive an email like this, it is likely a scam. If you’re unsure, look at the actual email address that sent the request. Scammers take advantage of the fact that some email providers show the name of the sender in the “from” line rather than the sender’s email address. Scammers make up a new email address, something similar to someone’s real address, but with a bunch of extra letters or numbers, and use that person’s real name when they’re creating the new email account. So they might try to scam people who know John Smith, whose address is firstname.lastname@example.org by making a new account, email@example.com, and using John Smith’s name for that account. That way, “John Smith” seems to be sending the email.
What you’ll want to do if you receive a suspicious message is look at the actual email address the message is being sent from, not just the display name. If you have gmail, you’ll have to click the tiny triangle next to the “to” line after you open the email in order to do this. You’ll likely see that the address looks funky, and you’ll then know it’s a scam. If the email address looks CORRECT, you’ll still want to call or text the person to make sure the email is really from them. Though it’s less common, it’s possible that the person’s actual email account has been hacked.