If Someone Asks You to “Do Me a Favor” Over Email, Don’t Respond

Updated: Feb. 14, 2023

Here's everything you need to know to avoid falling for the "Can you do me a favor?" scam.

We’ll be the first to admit that online scams can easily be mistaken for something real. That’s why it’s essential to know all the main ones circulating so you can identify them if they cross your path. For example, one of the top recurring online scams is the “Can you do me a favor?” scam. Here’s everything you need to know to protect yourself from this hoax.

What is the “Can you do me a favor?” scam?

The scam works like this: You might receive an email from someone you think you know mentioning how busy they are and that they need to buy a gift card. Here’s where it gets tricky: They’ll typically say the gift card is for a feel-good cause, such as a charity. From there, the hacker will request that you purchase the gift card, send a picture of both sides and they’ll reimburse you later. But, as you might have guessed, no “feel good” organization benefits from your purchase.

This scam works because hackers attempt to make it seem like they’re someone you know. They might do that by signing the email with your name or using a similar address to that of your friends, coworkers or loved ones.

Unlike other online hoaxes, the “do me a favor” scam involves gift cards. Scammers often use gift cards as they are tricky to trace and hackers attempting to take your money can instantly download the funds. While people might be wary of sharing their bank account information, many wouldn’t think twice about sending a gift card, which is why this scam is worrisome.

How can I keep this from happening to me?

Thief on mobile phone screen stealing moneyBRO Vector/Getty Images

Online scams are scary, but there are several steps you can take to ensure you do not get caught in the “do me a favor” scam trap. Here are four ways to ensure this does not happen to you.

Reach out directly to the person who supposedly sent it

The most foolproof way to avoid falling into the “do me a favor” scam is by simply reaching out directly to the person who supposedly sent it. Usually, the scammers want you to believe it’s someone you know who needs the money, so they might pose as your friend, relative or coworker. Therefore, the best way to avoid online scams is by contacting the supposed sender via phone or text message and checking in.

Take note of the email tone

Another way to ensure you do not fall victim to the “Can you do me a favor?” scam is by considering the email’s tone for context. Is the sender rushing you or making it sound urgent? If so, you’ll want to double-check to ensure it’s the real deal. You might also see phrases such as “I need it now.”

Check the email address validity

Another way to catch a scammer is by checking the email address’s validity. Sometimes it will be just one or two numbers or letters off from the email address of someone you know, so give the address a thorough inspection.

Be mindful of who you give your email address to

You know what they say: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So with that in mind, be careful to who you give your email address. Your email address is valuable information, and you want it to stay in the right hands.

Now that you’re armed with this knowledge about the “do me a favor” scam, you’re better prepared if you come up against it. Keep in mind, of course, that email is just one place you can encounter scams. You should also watch out for phone scams, Instagram scams, and even Facebook scams.