Boss scam: Email, text from your employer could be a scammer

Lois Douglass was at work when she got an email from her boss at a local nonprofit asking for a favor.

Now the Kennewick woman and her husband are out $2,000, and wanting to warn others before they’re lured in by the same scheme.

The scam which was new to local police started with an email that appeared to come from the director of the nonprofit where Lois works.

An impostor posing as her boss said she was busy with conference calls and needed Lois to pick up 10 gift cards valued at $200 each.

Douglass, 62, believed she was helping out her boss and would be reimbursed if she bought the gift cards.

So she followed the instructions. She bought the cards, took pictures of them and emailed the photos in a reply to the original email.

When the person claiming to be her boss reached back out wanting her to spend more, she became suspicious.

“I’m embarrassed by how many red flags I missed (like her using a different email address than she normally does, though she does have multiple accounts) but again, because I thought I was talking with my trusted boss,” Lois told the Herald last week.

She and her husband called the police, but it was already too late. The value on the gift cards was already gone.

Police told the couple it’s not likely officials will be able to track down exactly who is responsible.

Creative scammers

This is the first time Kennewick police Commander Christian Walters had heard this kind of scam, but it didn’t surprise him.

Scam artists will do anything to get money from people including posing as children or grandchildren, he said.

“They are becoming very creative,” he said.

The “boss scam’ has been reported in other parts of the county in recent years. Some have come by email and others by text messages, according to a Reddit post that shared nearly the same wording.

Lois also learned that everyone at her nonprofit had gotten the same phony email and another employee also was fooled.

But instead of emailing photos of activation numbers for the cards, that employee texted the pictures directly to her boss, who nothing of the request.

Walters said people should be on high alert if anyone asks them to buy gift cards and to provide the activation codes or any personal information about themselves.

While losing $2,000 is frustrating, Lois said it’s not devastating but it could be for others.

She wanted people to be aware that a friendly message from a boss could really be someone trying to steal money.

“Keep being nice people, but be careful,” she said. “A legitimate boss is not going to be offended by double checking.”