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"Friends in need" scam strikes Clinton County; what to look out for

A group of friends narrowly avoided the full force of a scam that appeared to come from one of their own.

The Clinton County Sheriff's Office released a report detailing a scamming incident that struck a group of friends and nearly succeeded.

The sheriff's office, in a Facebook post, describes the incident as version of a "Friend in need" scam, a common form of email scam that goes back to the early days of the internet. 

According to the office's story, three Clinton women received an email from a fourth woman, who was a friends of theirs, asking them to purchase $400 in Amazon gift cards. The friend's message stated that she was out travelling with a dead phone. She requested that the three women purchase gift cards and sent pictures of the cards' information to another email address, claiming that they were gifts for her niece's birthday.

At least two of the three women did not fully comply with the email's request, and the delay this caused is what allowed the scam to be exposed.

The sheriff's office says that the source of the scam may have been a fake Mediacom email that allowed hackers to gain access to the woman's email account in February 2020. They suspect that this original phishing email installed malware on the woman's device, which allowed the scammers to obtain her email information.

The Clinton County Sheriff's Office has given a specific tip to help avoid this specific type of scam: Be way of emergency messages from friends, family, and acquaintances asking for money, gift cards, etc.. If you receive a message like this, ask the person who seemed to have sent the email about the validity of the message through a channel other than directly replying to the message. Additionally, someone asking you to recite or photograph the serial number of a gift card is a very common indicator of a scam.

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