On a wintry afternoon in early February, I became the unwitting agent for an ingenious scam that may have cost several friends some money – not big bucks, but meaningful amounts. Starting in the early afternoon that day, I lost the use of my email. I couldn’t send or receive any mail, though I didn’t know it at the time. But I started to get phone calls, some on my flip-phone, some on my land line. Each caller asked about an Amazon account, which they thought, or at least suspected, I had asked them about. Some said the email they received didn’t read the way I write, but they wanted to be sure.
Some had responded to the first email without checking, using an email return address that, at a glance, looked like mine, and they received a second email explaining that I (the false me) was having difficulty getting an Amazon gift card for my niece’s birthday, and asking whether they could buy an Amazon E-code gift card for her. The second email continued, “Let me know if you can handle it so I can send you my Niece email so the E-code can be sent there and am only looking to spend $200 on it, I will reimburse you back as soon as possible.”
Most of the “scamees” were pretty sure by then that the message wasn’t really from me, but more than one recipient answered cooperatively and received the third email, which read, “Here is her email address is (firstname.lastname@example.org) Let it be signed with your name on it so won’t think a third party is trying to access your account but i will let her know it’s from me to her. Thanks”
Sergeant Nelson of the Suffield PD, who handles such matters, said I can’t claim identity theft, because I wasn’t the one who was swindled. Anyone who sent money does have a legitimate claim, but it wasn’t likely to be helpful, as these things are almost impossible to trace.
Yes, I lost no money, but I spent hours responding to the scamees who contacted me, and a half day working with several Cox technicians to change my password, then several more hours working with Geek Squad specialists fixing a computer problem that may have been caused by the scam.
Most importantly, a lot of good citizens were at least bothered by the scam, undoubtedly many more than those who reported it to me. And perhaps some lost $200.
So take care. Those of us with email accounts are connected to the wide, wide world, and there are a lot of smart crooks out there.