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The Do Me A Favor scam is gaining momentum, AARP warns

Friends don’t ask friends to buy gift cards

Photo (c) Cnythzl - Getty Images
If a friend or associate sends you an email or text asking “do me a favor,” are you likely to agree? If you do, you’ll probably be the victim of a scam.

AARP reports the Do Me A Favor scam has resurfaced recently, costing many victims hundreds of dollars. Here’s how it works:

This imposter scam starts when a hacker is able to infect someone’s computer and gain access to their email contacts. The people listed in the browser’s contacts receive an email that purports to be from the person whose computer is compromised.

The scammer then composes an email that has a generic greeting, such as “hi.” It then says that the subject’s niece has a birthday tomorrow and he can’t get away to purchase a gift. He asks the “friend” to do him a favor and purchase a Target gift card.

Then the request gets a little bizarre. It doesn’t ask the target to send the gift card to the niece or the person who sent the email. Rather, it instructs the target to photograph both sides of the gift card and email or text the images to him

That, of course, is a dead giveaway that it’s a scam. But some of the contacts receiving the email may be more vulnerable than others.

For example, someone getting an email who is an infrequent business associate would find it very strange that someone they barely know is asking for this favor. On the other hand, contacts who are close friends or family members might be more susceptible. 

Employees may be more vulnerable

If the compromised computer belongs to an employer, the scammer may try to identify the contacts who work for the boss and request them to do him or her a favor. Again, unusual and a bit awkward but an intimidated employee might feel pressured to comply.

“The supposed boss may claim they are traveling, or too busy to make the purchase,” said Bobby Savoie, president of Louisiana AARP. “But once the gift cards are purchased and the information is sent, the money is gone.”

Savoie says scammers are very good at spoofing email addresses and may change a single letter to make the recipient think the email is genuine, a move that he says improves the scammer’s chances of success. 

A good rule of thumb is if you get such a request – or any request dealing with the purchase of gift cards – it’s a scam. Even if the request comes from a close friend, call them up to confirm the request before heading off to Target.

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