Scam alert: Boss emailed asking you to buy gift cards for clients? Be careful!

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We all know the holidays are a time to be generous and give to others. But if your boss emails you asking you to pick up iTunes gift cards or other reloadable prepaid cards for important clients, maybe you shouldn’t take it at face value…

RELATED: What to do if you mistakenly give a criminal your gift card PIN

What you need to know about boss impersonation scams and gift cards

Scams involving a criminal posing as your boss and emailing you with instructions to buy iTunes, Google Play or even MoneyPak, Amazon and Steam gift cards are on the rise, according to The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

More than 1,100 companies — many of them real estate companies, legal firms, religious organizations and tech firms — have reported being the victim of boss impostor scams over the past two years.

This kind of impostor scams involves rank-and-file employees being told to go buy gift cards by the supposed boss. Unfortunately, more than $1 million has been lost this way, with the average loss per incident being less than $900.

The criminals may even instruct you to visit multiple stores — often a Walmart, Target, Walgreens and/or CVS — to get around purchase limits you may encounter at any one retailer.

Boss impostor phishing attempts are just the latest in the category of business email compromise scams.

The uptick in the phishing attempts is unusual because we often don’t expect to see business email spoofing heat up until tax time.

That’s typically when criminals impersonating top company brass have been known to email payroll professionals asking for copies of W-2 forms for all employees. The goal is to get sensitive info like employees’ names, addresses, Social Security numbers and withholding info.

But it looks like the crooks are getting a jump on the calendar and using the holiday season as an excuse to get started early. Don’t fall for their scams!


Remember, always call or email your boss at a number or email you know to be legitimate to confirm the request before you buy any gift cards.

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