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A Friend Is Scamming You

Don’t do this friend a favor. It’s a clever scam.

If a friend asks for a favor, you do it, no questions asked. Right? It’s 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!

How this scam works

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 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 need help 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 buy the gift card, your “friend” will ask you to share the card’s PIN or send a photo of the back. Unfortunately, by doing this, you are essentially handing money to the scammer. Getting the money back is nearly impossible because gift cards have different protections than credit or debit cards.

How to avoid similar scams 

  • Reach out to your friend directly. Call or text your friend to confirm their story if you get an unusual request. No matter how harmless the story sounds, always double-check before sending someone money.
  • Use gift cards wisely. Do not do business with someone who insists on payment with gift cards. Remember, providing the numbers from the back of a gift card is just like sending cash.
  • Read the full alert for more tips. 

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.

Learn how to spot a scam.