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Attorney General: 'Boss Scam' targeting workers through text, email

The 'Boss Scam' poses as an employer and asks employees for money for fundraisers and gift cards.
Credit: mary416 - stock.adobe.com

NEW YORK — New York Attorney General Letitia James is warning workers about a "Boss Scam."

The scammers pose as employers and ask employees for money for gift cards because of a reported work emergency. The scam may be on the rise because more people are working from home. 

“A legitimate employer will never ask you to purchase gift cards in order to pay clients or for other business purchases. I urge all New Yorkers to be on the alert for this type of fraud, and to protect themselves and their wallets by following our simple tips,” James said in a statement.

The scam typically involves someone receiving a text or email from a person pretending to be their employer, urgently asking for them to buy gift cards that they will get reimbursed for to help resolve an emergency. The sender's name is usually spoofed to look similar to the employer's actual name.

Gift card scams are common: 1 in 4 people who lost money to a scam said they paid in gift cards according to analysis by the Federal Trade Commission. Gift card brands asked for in fraud reports include eBay, GooglePay, Target, iTunes and Amazon. 

James offers the following tips to protect against the "Boss Scam":

  • Take a pause. Scammers create a sense of urgency to prey on victims’ emotions.
  • Take a second pause. A legitimate employer will not ask you to handle company business through gift card purchases.
  • Verify any supposed emergency by reaching out directly to an employer at the number you know. Do not reply to the text or email sent, even if it appears to come from a known email or phone number.

To avoid general gift card scams: 

  • Be suspicious of anyone who contacts you unexpectedly asking to be sent gift cards.
  • Never purchase gift cards for the purpose of transferring money. Gift cards are solely for gifts.
  • Scammers often train their victims to give false information to retail clerks when clerks ask questions about large gift card purchases. If a retail clerk warns you that you may be the victim of a gift card scam, heed their advice and contact law enforcement officials.