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Crime & Police Reports

A new wrinkle in thievery

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by Joseph Gresser

What do you do when your boss asks you to do her a favor.  A new scam assumes you will hop to it.

The play begins with an email, apparently from the boss, pledging the victim to silence.

“Do you have a moment?”it reads. “I have a request I need you to handle discreetly.  I’m at a conference meeting right now and only have access to mail.  No calls,  Just reply to my email.”

A response from the intended mark elicts this enthusiastic reply:

“GREAT!  Here’s what I want you to do for me because I’m a little busy right now.  I aimed at surprising some of our diligent staff with gift cards. This should be Confidential until they all have the gift cards as it’s a surprise.  Can you get this done? and how soon?”

The old motto of confidence games was, “You can’t cheat an honest man.”  Newer crooks have discovered motivations other than greed that will induce a person to part with her money.

In this case, the desire both to please a superior and help reward colleagues, a laudable intention, is the lure the scammer dangles before his fish.  Having attracted interest it is time to set the hook.

“I will be glad if you can get it done now,” the purported boss writes.  “I need 5qty of Google play gift cards for $200 each (total $1000).  You should get them at any local store around you.  After you get them, remove each from the pack and scratch the back of each card and take a clear picture of the back of each card and send it to me here.

“I will give the cards to each staff member myself and please keep the physical cards and receipt to yourself until I request for it.  Let me know when you are on your way to the store.  Your reimbursement is assured. Thanks!!!”

Of course the physical Google Play gift card is of no real significance.  When it comes time to use it, the site will only ask for the code written on the back.  A photograph is every bit as useful as the real thing.

Anyone foolish enough to follow the instructions will wait a long time for the boss to ask for the cards, or more to the point, the reciept.

Should the victim bring up the subject it is a certainty that the boss will be astonished and baffled.

At that point the victim will probably do what he should have done at first, look at the address used by the scammer.

Instead of the boss’ real address it will be a generic gmail one, something like [email protected]

Fortunately for the unwary person, the use of gift cards by scammers is well known.  Many stores have trained staff to make inquiries when a customer tries to buy an unusual amount and have put in place policies that make it impossible for a clerk to sell large numbers of cards even to a customer who insists on buying them.

A good rule of thumb, even for those who think themselves too wise to be fooled, is to be suspicious when asked by email to perform an unusual and costly errand, even if the request appears to come from a trusted and respected source.

Better to make sure, perhaps by sending a message that is not simply a reply to the sending address, than find oneself out of a sizeable amount of cash and in possession of a stack of worthless gift cards.

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