NEW YORK – Since the pandemic began, scams have been on the rise. Most recently, “boss scams” have become very prevalent, and Attorney General Letitia James is working to warn people about them before they get victimized.
According to a release sent out Friday, a boss scam is “a common text and email scam in which fraudsters pose as a consumer’s employer and request gift cards due to a purported work emergency.”
Officials believe that the pandemic is to blame for the rise in this type of scam, with more people working remotely and using their computers and work emails for communication and job tasks.
“Due to COVID-19 safety measures, many employees are still working remotely which makes it easier to fall for this common scam. A legitimate employer will never ask you to purchase gift cards in order to pay clients or for other business purchases,” explained Attorney General James. “I urge all New Yorkers to be on the alert for this type of fraud, and to protect themselves and their wallets by following our simple tips.”
Here’s how a boss scam works: an employee receives an urgent text or email from a supposed higher-up at their work. This may even come from an email that uses a boss’ name to make it seem more believable. The scammers say in their message that the employee should purchase gift cards to a certain store for them or a client. The message says that the person purchasing the cards will receive reimbursement pay, which is a lie. Furthermore, the scammer may ask for pictures of the scratch-off serial numbers on the back of gift cards to allow them to use them without ever having to physically pick them up.
According to Federal Trade Commission data, “About one in four [consumers] who lost money to a fraud say they paid with a gift card. In fact, gift cards have topped the list of reported fraud payment methods every year since 2018. During that time, people reported losing a total of nearly $245 million, with a median individual loss of $840.”
The FTC notes that some of the most reported gift cards in fraud reports included eBay, Google Play, Target, iTunes, and Amazon cards.
The Attorney General offered the following to help prevent yourself from getting scammed:
- Take a pause. Scammers create a sense of urgency to prey on victims’ emotions.
- Take a second pause. A legitimate employer will not ask you to handle company business through gift card purchases.
- Verify any supposed emergency by reaching out directly to an employer at the number you know. Do not reply to the text or email sent, even if it appears to come from a known email or phone number.
Tips to avoid gift card scams generally:
- Be suspicious of anyone who contacts you unexpectedly asking to be sent gift cards.
- Never purchase gift cards for the purpose of transferring money. Gift cards are solely for gifts.
- Scammers often train their victims to give false information to retail clerks when clerks ask questions about large gift card purchases. If a retail clerk warns you that you may be the victim of a gift card scam, heed their advice and contact law enforcement officials.
If you have recently been targeted by a boss scam, call (800) 771-7755 or submit a Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau online complaint form.