I was targeted by a fairly clever phishing scheme the other day. An email arrived in the inbox for Cyn’s Tech tips. The return address was that of a subscriber. One that I recognized. It asked a simple question. “Do you have an Amazon account?”

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That’s not an unusual question from a reader. And I suppose it wouldn’t be a very unusual question from a friend or acquaintance. I thought perhaps the reader had a question about using Amazon.  I replied that I did.

Then I got this response:

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The reply claimed that the sender was having an issue buying a gift card for her niece through Amazon. “She” wondered if I might help her out by buying a $200 card. She would then reimburse me.

Of course, my scam alarms went off full force. I have to give the scammer credit. Sending a short message first and then waiting for the reply is a good tactic. They don’t ask the “favor” until they confirm that I believe I know the person well enough to respond.

That filters out a lot of people. They go subtler than most scammers. No medical emergency or PC virus. Just a request for a little help getting a present for a niece.

Of course, if I’d purchased the gift card and sent it to the alleged niece, it would have been cashed and gone within seconds. There’d be no way to get the money back.

If someone asks you to buy them gift cards, that should sound every alarm bell you have.