Job Starters Tricked into Buying Gift Cards for Fake Boss

Snippets issue highlights new gift card, paycheck diversion, Uber and grants scams: Internet Scambusters #834

We have sneaky tricks galore, including a nasty gift card scam for new employees, in this week’s Snippets Issue.

Plus, we’ll tell you about a tactic Uber ride-sharing drivers allegedly use to trick passengers into canceling their booking but paying the driver anyway.

And we have a warning about the latest grants scam doing the rounds on Facebook.

And now for the main feature…


Job Starters Tricked into Buying Gift Cards for Fake Boss


It’s tough enough starting a new job without having to deal with a gift card scam during your first few days.

But that’s exactly what’s happening to some anxious job-starters according to one of our subscribers in a U.S. state Attorney General’s office.

It’s a simple but clever trick that relies on knowing the email address or cell phone number of potential victims and exploiting their inexperience.

People often give away information on social media about starting a new job, and crooks usually have no trouble tracking down the contact information they need to get in touch, sometimes even contacting them via the firm they just joined.

They send an email or SMS text message purporting to come from the employee’s new boss asking them to buy some gift cards, which the supposed boss wants to give to a group of people.

The fake boss claims to be in a meeting or somehow otherwise too busy to buy the cards himself.

He just needs the newbie to buy the cards, with a promise of later reimbursement, and sends him the card numbers so the boss can supposedly pass them onto the recipients.

You know what happens next!

You may think you can see straight through this scam but, according to our informant, there have been many reports of such incidents.

In one case, a young man on his first day at work received this gift card request.

“It was his first day,” she explains. “He got the message and went out and bought the gift cards and called back with the number. He believed it was going to be used for the employer to give to college students as gifts.

“So everything is very plausible. And these young kids are falling for it. They’re afraid to ask and to confirm with new employers.”

Very plausible indeed. While we’re always warning about not using store-bought gift cards to make payments to people you don’t know, this one has an element that just might convince victims to buy.

So be on the lookout for this trick if you’re starting a new job. Or, if you know someone who’s beginning with a new employer, please pass this warning on to them.

Paycheck Diversion

Scammers posing as “the boss” have another trick up their sleeves, this time with the aim of stealing confidential information and paychecks.

The crooks send emails pretending to be from the boss or HR department asking employees to complete a questionnaire.

The message contains a link that appears to connect with the employer’s website. But it’s a fake page that allows the crooks to solicit and collect the info they need.

Then, according to the FBI, the crooks use this information to log onto the firm and change the employee’s bank account information, so the paycheck goes straight to the scammers.

The FBI says you should never share your login information whether by email or a website.

Also, don’t trust messages that seem to be from your employer, whether it’s for a survey or anything else. Check that the message is genuine before responding to it.

Canceling Uber

For our third Snippets item this week, we hit the road with drivers of ride-sharing services like Uber, or rather, their would-be passengers.

There have been several reports recently about a trick some drivers allegedly play to put money in their pockets without picking up their fare.

The scam exploits the fact that if you book a ride and then cancel it (after the two-minute deadline you’re allowed) you incur a $5 fee, most of which goes straight to the driver.

Why would you cancel? In some cases, the driver actually asks you to after claiming your proposed destination is too far away.

Reports of this type of behavior have flooded one travel-related website. But it’s not the only trick.

Drivers are allowed to be up to five minutes late and if you cancel during that period — say the driver tells you they’re stuck in traffic — you also forfeit that fiver.

According to the previously mentioned travel site, Uber’s terms of service don’t allow drivers to ask the destination before they actually pick you up. So, if your driver calls and asks, be on your guard.

And if you feel you’ve been tricked into paying a cancellation fee, contact Uber.

To learn more about Uber’s cancellation policies, visit Am I charged for cancelling?

No Empowerment

For our final Snippet of the week, we’re warning about the revival of a so-called Empowerment Program that’s being promoted by scammers on Facebook.

The crooks claim the program is part of a Federal government project. The invitation to take part comes from a hacked account of a real friend who asks if you’ve heard of the program, which supposedly provides grants to individuals trying to improve themselves or their business.

This “friend” just happens to have a form they can send you to get those grants, but it’s just a fake that solicits confidential information and, in some cases, asks for a fee to kickstart your enrollment. In one reported case, a victim lost $15,000 in hopes of receiving a larger sum.

The first thing to know is that there is no such Empowerment Program. Furthermore, as we always say, never pay money to get money. It’s always a scam.

And don’t provide confidential information to anyone without checking they’re genuine.

Alert of the Week

If you ever return to your car to find a note from someone who claims to have dinged the vehicle, beware!

It’s an apology note and you’re asked to call a number so you can be covered for the cost of any repairs.

But this is yet another phishing tick. If you call the number you’ll be asked for your bank details so the reimbursement can supposedly be paid direct.

Instead, if you give this information, your bank account will be drained!

Time to close today, but we’ll be back next week with another issue. See you then!