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When a favor for a Friend is really a Scam

Better Business Bureau - BBBNashville, TN – If a friend asks for a favor, you do it, no questions asked. Right? Time to rethink that policy. In this new con, a scammer poses as a friend asking for a simple favor. The email is so convincing that BBB staff almost fell for it!

You 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 to 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.

How to avoid open enrollment scams:

  • Reach out to your friend directly. If you get an unusual request, call or text your friend to confirm their story. No matter how harmless the story sounds, always double-check before sending someone money.
  • Use gift cards wisely. Never do business with anyone who insists on payment with gift cards. Remember, providing the numbers from the back of a gift card is just like sending cash.

For More Information

Learn more about how scammers use gift cards in this BBB study on gift cards and this tip about gift cons. Also, read more about emergency scams and impostor scams.
 
If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams. Find more information about scams and how to avoid them at BBB.org/AvoidScams.

About BBB of Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. BBB provides objective advice, BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust.

Visit bbb.org for more information. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Middle TN and Southern KY, which was founded in 1961 and serves 45 counties in Middle TN and Southern KY.

Visit bbb.org for more information.

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