‘Simple’ Scam Messages May Fool Even The Most Discerning Eye — What to Know

Scams are becoming more difficult to spot, so if a 'friend' sends a text asking for a favor, it may be wise to think twice, report says.

Laptop with a warning sign and letters that spell SCAM ALERT
(Image credit: Getty Image)

Scams have become ubiquitous in the digital age and are now becoming more difficult to spot. According to the Better Business Bureau, the most recent iteration includes some key details that, to the blind eye, may fool you into thinking it’s legit.

Like many other scams, this one comes over email, and will appear to be from someone you know. “The message looks harmless and casual – like something a friend might really write,” the BBB said in a recent scam alert. For example, the BBB said, it could be something like: "Hi, how are things going with you? Are you busy? I need a quick favor," and even ending the message with "Sent from my iPhone."

That is a more sophisticated scam, complete with the same automated language included on legitimate emails, the BBB said. If you reply, the scammer may ask you to purchase a gift card for them and send a photo of the pin or the back of the card, claiming they’re traveling and are unable to buy it online.

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Don't be fooled

But don't be fooled. Scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them personal and financial information, according to the Federal Trade Commission, whose data finds that scams cost consumers billions of dollars a year.

Gift cards are especially tricky when it comes to scams, as they don’t contain the same protections as credit or debit cards, and so the cash most likely will not be recouped. It’s one of the reasons why gift cards are one of the worst things to keep in your wallet. Anyone can use them, as you are not required to show ID when paying with a gift card, and they are an easy target for scammers both during the holidays and otherwise. Scammers take down gift card information and wait until it’s activated to use it

After being on high alert during the holidays, you might be tempted to let your guard down. But it’s important to remember that scammers are working all year round.

What to do if you've been scammed

According to BBB, the best way to protect yourself is to reach out to the friend directly to confirm that the message is from them. Also, use gift cards wisely, being sure to stay wary of businesses who deal exclusively with gift cards. 

As Kiplinger has previously reported, if you suspect you’ve already been a victim of credit card fraud, there are a few steps you can take. You can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If you notice fraudulent charges, you can call  AARP's Fraud Watch Network helpline at 877-908-3360.  

To learn more about how to spot, avoid and report scams, or steps to help you recover money you’ve lost to a scammer, visit the FTC's scam reporting page.  And if you spot a scam, you can report it directly to the FTC's fraud report site.


Jamie Feldman

Jamie Feldman is a journalist, essayist and content creator. After building a byline as a lifestyle editor for HuffPost, her articles and editorials have since appeared in Cosmopolitan, Betches, Nylon, Bustle, Parade, and Well+Good. Her journey out of credit card debt, which she chronicles on TikTok, has amassed a loyal social media following. Her story has been featured in Fortune, Business Insider and on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS News, and NPR. She is currently producing a podcast on the same topic and living in Brooklyn, New York.