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FRAUD WATCH NETWORK

 

When ‘Do Me a Favor’ is a Scam

We humans are generally helpful by nature. And this tendency is something criminals often seek to manipulate — whether it’s a sham tug-at-your-heartstrings charity, a fake crisis of a loved one, or now the “Can you do me a favor?” scam. The latter typically involves criminals posing as bosses, friends, family members or even a local faith leader. But they all have one thing in common: a request for gift cards.

How It Works:

You receive a brief but urgent message from someone you know asking for a quick favor — run to the store and pick up some gift cards, and the person will reimburse you later.

  • The message can come by email, text or social media, and the sender claims to be traveling or is otherwise tied up.  
  • The ask may come from a supervisor at work who needs the gift cards for an employee appreciation event, a faith leader who is looking to quickly help a family in need, or a family member or friend.
  • The request is for a specific gift card and a specific amount, and they ask you to snap photos of the front and back (exposing the PIN) and to send them the pictures.

What You Should Know:

  • Gift cards are attractive to criminals — they are everywhere, are not generally trackable and can be converted to cash in an instant.
  • Anytime someone asks you to buy gift cards and share the numbers off the back, it’s a scam — full stop.

What You Should Do:

  • Verify. If you get a message like this from a name you recognize, contact the person in a way you know to be legitimate and ask if he or she sent it.
  • If you buy gift cards, only later to learn you have been involved in a scam, contact the retailer or card issuer immediately. If the funds weren’t drained in full, you may be able to get some of your money back.
  • Remember that all scams are crimes. If you ever experience financial loss from a scam, contact the police to file a report. If you get resistance, persist so that you have a formal record in the event of possible future restitution.

Support for Fraud Victims: The AARP Fraud Watch Network offers AARP VOA ReST, a free program that provides emotional support for people affected by fraud. Hour-long ReST sessions are confidential small-group meetings that are held online and led by trained peer facilitators. Experiencing a scam can be devastating, but it doesn’t have to define you. Interested? Visit aarp.org/fraudsupport to learn more.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.