Internet scammers target me with a new strategy

I tend to be fairly good at spotting internet scams. I also never click on any attachments or links that are in emails or texts unless I was expecting them or I can be sure it is genuine because the email also contains a personalized message that could not have been generated by a bot. I also tell everyone that I delete unread any link or attachment that is unaccompanied by such a message. But even after being told that, people seem to be so anxious to forward things that they find interesting, that they fire them off that I still keep getting such emails and texts that are promptly deleted.

Then there are those scam messages where the sender’s name is someone you know and they claim that they are stuck in some foreign country where their passport and wallet were lost or stolen and they urgently need money to get home and asking you to help by wiring them money. That is an obvious scam but I have read that elderly people have been persuaded to send money to people they thought were their stranded grandchildren.

Yesterday I received the following message

Just reaching out. Hope you are keeping safe on this pandemic?

The sender was someone who worked at the university where I worked for many years before retiring. I just barely knew her and so was surprised to get this. But still, there are nice people who these days are reaching out to others solicitously. This message was also not asking for anything. Since I always feel obliged to reply to any email that I think is genuine, I sent the following message back.


Thanks for the concern. I am doing well and hope the same with you.


I promptly got the following reply.

Thanks for responding, I am sorry for bothering you with this e-mail.  I need to get a GOOGLE PLAY GIFT CARDS for my Niece. It’s her birthday but i can’t do this now because I’m currently away and i tried purchasing online but unfortunately no luck with that. Can you get it from any store around you? I’ll pay back as soon as I am back. Kindly let me know if you can handle this?

Await your soonest response.


Yep, I had been the target of a scam effort. I of course ignored this second email.

It has been a long time since I got scam emails like the Nigerian 419 scam. I assumed that my email address had been removed as being unlikely to be fruitful. But I wonder if the fact that I replied to the first one means that I am now on a list of potential suckers and will get a lot more of them again.


  1. jrkrideau says

    I have been getting the Service Canada—occasionally Revenue Canada —telephone calls threatening legal action lately. With any luck they will stop soon. The last time they gave up after about two weeks.

    I was a bit shocked a while a go when i got a letter from the local sheriff’s office—note a sheriff in Ontario is nothing like a US sheriff— but it turned out to be an authentic jury summons.

  2. garnetstar says

    Everyone in my department, and some outside of it, have been getting emails from our department head, asking us to reply and send a time we can speak, or asks for our phone number so we can speak quickly, or just asking “Can I speak with you?”

    All scams. But, the scammers even knew when we changed department heads, and started sending the same scam messages under the new one’s name! They must have been spying on our faculty meetings, or something.

    Check the email address by hovering over the sender’s name: the message won’t be from the person’s university address, but will be using the university person’s name with a different email domain, like gmail or something.

  3. Mano Singham says


    I do the hovering thing but it does not help because some of my former university colleagues use gmail or other commercial mail servers to send private messages.

  4. says

    A few years back I received an email from a fellow in our running club, someone I knew but would not call a close friend. His email said that he was on vacation with his family in the Philippines and had been mugged. He needed money ASAP to stay in his hotel. It was obvious that someone had hacked his email and found my address in his contacts (we had exchanged a few emails regarding a club project). I didn’t delete the email. Instead, I answered it with something like “Great to hear from you. I didn’t know you were on vacation. It sounds like your wife’s cancer is in remission.” I made up the stuff about his wife to see the reaction (and to waste the scammer’s time). He replied, again asking for money. I replied, increasing the tale. This time it was some calamity that had befallen one of his kids. This exchange continued for about a week and by the end my poor fellow runner was now perhaps the most unlucky man in the world, yet the scammer was relentless. Eventually, I think he realized that he wasn’t going to get anything and stopped responding but I was happy to at least waste his time and reduce his effectiveness elsewhere, even if only by a very modest amount.

  5. Steve Cameron says

    Your email exchange with Jane reminded me of this viral text thread with someone trying a similar scam who ended up getting more than he bargained for when he posed as a neighbor :

    I always try to do my part when scammers call about my computer having a virus or outstanding monies owed to the Revenue Service by keeping them on the phone for as long as I’m able.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *