3 ON YOUR SIDE (3TV) - It’s called the “Boss Scam” and it’s duping victims out of a lot of money.
It starts when you receive an email from a scammer posing as your boss. It’s easy to fall for because the email address is very similar to your boss’ email address and may even contain your boss’ name. However, it’s slightly different. For instance, your boss may have a Yahoo address, but the scammer’s email is from a Google account.
It seems like many of us are constantly checking our text messages, social media accounts or in many cases, emails.
That's exactly what McKenzie McCalahan was doing recently when she came across an email that looked to be from her boss named Diana.
“Is it common for your boss to email you?” 3 On Your Side’s Gary Harper asked.
"Yes, she's in the office most days, so when she's not there, she'll send me an email,” McCalahan replied.
McCalahan didn't know it at the time, but the email was actually from a scammer posing as McCalahan's boss.
"It seemed normal. It was someone with my boss' name, and it said, 'Hi McKenzie. Please give me your cellphone number. I need you to do some work for me,'" said McCalahan.
McCalahan did, and she immediately received a text message asking her this: "McKenzie, here is what you need to do for me real quick. I need Google Play cards. Can you get some at the store right now? Let me know to advise denomination for purchase."
McCalahan says the request wasn't unusual because she worked in marketing.
"I'm always picking up extra gift cards for contests or giveaways that we do," said McCalahan.
McCalahan went to a Safeway grocery store, and once inside, she found those Google Play cards hanging on the display. And, just like the email told her to do, McCalahan purchased five $100 cards for a total of $500.
She then scratched off the back to expose the numbers that activate the cards, took photos with her cell phone, and forwarded those numbers to the scammer. Again, she thought it was her boss.
Then, the text messages start again. "Are you there?" McCalahan replies she's still in the Safeway parking lot.
“OK, I need you to get an additional eight cards at $100 each,” the text says.
When McCalahan replies she doesn't have $800 in her bank account, the scammer writes, “Run home and get your credit card. You will be reimbursed ASAP.”
McCalahan does. But when she gets to the office to be reimbursed for those Google cards, her boss has no idea what she's talking about.
McCalahan then shows her boss the text messages.
“And then when she told me that is not my phone number, that's when I started crying,” McCalahan said.
“That's when you realize you had been duped?” Harper asked.
"Yes," she said.
Out all that money, McCalahan turned to her mom for advice.
“I was talking to my mom. She said, 'Why don't you contact Gary Harper at 3 On Your Side? He deals with this kind of stuff all the time,'" said McCalahan.
Google never replied to 3 On Your Side's call for help, but Safeway did.
They immediately investigated and discovered 11 out of the 13 Google Play cards had not been redeemed by the scammer yet. As a result, Safeway was able to recover $1,100 out of the $1,300 that was spent and returned it all in cashback to McCalahan.
McCalahan says it only happened with the help of 3 On Your Side.
“I’m so thankful. I initially contacted so many people like my bank and the store where I got the gift cards from and even the police and everyone said there was nothing that I could do so I was pretty much out of ideas and the possibility of me getting my money back was very slim,” she said.
A big thank you to Safeway for helping to get most of the money back. Also, if you get an email and it looks like it's from your boss, look at it closely. Remember, scammers use email addresses that are similar looking to your boss,' but it's not.