"If someone calls, emails, texts, or direct messages you, urgently needing payment, for any reason, and asks for payment by gift card, pre-paid debit card, direct transfer apps, or cryptocurrency, THEY ARE STEALING YOUR MONEY. It is a scam. Hang up, ignore the messages, report it to law enforcement."
The scammers are very sophisticated. The stories they tell are convincing, often terrifying. The scams take advantage of our kindness, caring, loyalty, families, social connection, or sense of responsibility. The thieves use psychological pressure to steal what they want from good people who are trying to do the right thing. It happens so fast and under such pressure that people don’t realize they are being robbed until it is over.
The scammers target all kinds of people.
There was a scam this past year, targeting people who worked at universities. An email would arrive that looked like it came from a colleague, usually a superior such as a department chair or dean asking the person urgently to respond by text. The reply text explained that the person was in an embarrassing position, they were in a meeting they couldn’t leave and forgot to bring $500 in Google Play Gift Cards as an award or gift for someone in the meeting. The respondent was asked, “please do me a favor and run and buy the cards and text me the numbers ASAP, I need this in the next half hour. I will make it up to you later.” I know two people who did so, only to learn later that it was a scam. A scam probably from the same thief, even the dollar amount was the same. The sent from email addresses were nearly identical to a genuine university email address (off by a character or space – a common spoofed email technique.) The text number had a local area code for where the university was at (the two people I have learned of were at universities 1,000 miles away from one another.) These are sophisticated criminals that are taking time to research and target their crime.
I was on a video call recently with financial services and securities experts discussing financial exploitation. Several people spoke up about the problem caused by the proliferation of cryptocurrency ATMs. Crypto currencies are untraceable. The numbers are like cash. Once the code has been shared it is virtually impossible to stop the transaction or get the money back.