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Did you get an email from your boss asking you for a favor? Does your boss need you to send gift cards to pay for an upcoming office party? Before you go out and pay up, ask yourself: is that really your boss? It could be a scammer trying to get your money.  

Here’s how it can play out. The scammer sends you an email impersonating your boss, either using a spoofed email address, or by hacking into their account. They then make up a story about needing your help with something — an office surprise party, a company event, even a simple errand. Whatever the reason, they’ll ask you to help by paying them with gift cards, promising to pay you back later. But once you hand over the gift card number and PIN, the money is gone.

If you get an unexpected email from your boss asking for this kind of help:

  • Don’t pay for anything with a gift card. Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. If anyone asks you to pay with a gift card, it’s a scam.
  • Double-check with your supervisor. Call your boss using a known number — not something that was written in the email.
  • Take a pause. Can’t reach your manager? Talk to a trusted coworker or friend. Tell them the situation and see what they would do.

Did you or someone you know pay a scammer? Find out what to do next. If you act quickly, sometimes (only sometimes) you can get your money back. But it’s worth trying.

And if you spotted this scam, report it at

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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September 08, 2021
My email was hacked and the hacker deleted all my contacts, but sent each of them an email requesting a gift card. One of my contacts called me to let me know about the email he received. Since I had a list of contacts on my computer, I sent each contact an email notifying them to delete the email that was hacked.
J Shaver
September 08, 2021
I work for a nonprofit agency in TN and nearly fell for this scam, even though I speak to the elderly often about fraud and scams! It progressed just as you described and I even bought the gift cards ($900 worth!). When I brought them to my boss, she had this incredulous look on her face and I immediately knew that we had been the victim of a scam. Thank goodness it was unsuccessful, as we couldn't afford to lose that kind of money!
September 08, 2021
I wish I had this information before I was gift card scammed in February to the tune of 12k.
September 08, 2021
"Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments." That's a good way to remember it if you're ever faced with this situation.
September 08, 2021
This exact thing happened to me and I think I wrote in about it. This is so great you are making people more aware. I never fall for scams and almost did with this. Next scam is cruise ships cancelling cruises and no reimbursement, .. coming soon lol
September 08, 2021
My area supervisor emailed me saying she was going on a trip, but needed to buy her niece a gift. Would I be so kind to buy a $50 gift card? She would repay me when she came back. I did not as this was an unusual request. Later learned her account was hacked.
Teddy's mom
September 13, 2021
Our boss passed away over 6 months ago. She reaches us from her grave regularly to request these favors. :( We are a non profit. These evil doers are stupid. And now they are getting sloppy.
September 15, 2021
I was scammed 2 times, first was to get a grant and second I won a Mercedes along with lots of money. I've lost about $7500+ altogether!
September 15, 2021
A friend of mine fell for this a few years ago. When she told me about what she was doing, I immediately recognized it as a scam and told her to stop. She was so embarrassed that she fell for it, but was trying to be responsive to the head attorney in the office. She reported it right away, but she never did get the money back.
fed up
September 20, 2021
OK. Good advice, check to see by other means with the person that sent the email since you cannot believe anything on email. That makes email useless. GO AFTER THE SCAMMERS.