I had a client recently who came very close to falling for a gift card scam. The client received an e-mail, purportedly from the local priest with a similar but not exact e-mail address. The e-mail sounded genuine, was appropriately chatty, and said the priest wanted to buy gift cards for his staff and would my client go to a store and buy four $500 gift cards. The e-mail said that the priest was in meetings all afternoon and couldn’t talk on the phone. It also said to scratch off the back of the gift cards and just e-mail back the codes underneath.
Such a scam preys on the trusting relationship with a religious leader. The client was in the checkout line at the store and an alert checkout person asked repeatedly “are you sure this is from your priest?" The client thought about it and doublechecked with the priest with a phone call just in time.
If you ever receive a request that sounds even a little bit unusual, even if it appears to be from a trusted source, independently verify with the actual source before taking any action, giving away personal information, etc. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed. If it is legitimate it will wait.
Another, older type of scam that has been around for a while involves someone calling you and saying he/she is a close relative, and is in jail and needs several thousand dollars to get bailed out. They provide instructions on how to send the money. Again the key to avoid the scam is to hang up and call the relative yourself. The two keys for all scams of this type are:
- Give yourself time to think
- Independently verify the information with the original source