Scam Alert!

Beware of the “do me a favor” gift card scam

Fraudsters are always lurking. Times like this are no exception! Your card services team is here to help with ways you can protect yourself against possible fraud. 

At least three ISU cardholders have fallen victim to the following scam. And unlike unauthorized transactions on your card account, these transactions cannot be identified as fraud to our provider, U.S. Bank, because the transaction was made by the cardholder.  

Names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.

Evie was embarrassed that she had missed the email from her manager.

Are you available now? I need you to get something done.


The message had gone to Evie’s junk mail folder, so she didn’t see it until three days after it was sent.  She replied:

Hey Rhoda,

This was in my junk mail folder, sorry I didn’t see this! What do you need? Is it too late?

Soon Evie had a reply:

Hey Evie,
It's not too late. I need you to pick up 5 Google Play gift cards of $100 value each from the store to send out to a contact for me. Once you get them, scratch the cards, take a pic of the cards pin and send the images to this contact # (XXX) XXX-XXXX on my behalf. Can you still get this done?

Evie purchased the cards and sent the pictures.  However, the email was not from her manager, but a perpetrator of a scam sometimes referred to as the “do me a favor” email scam.

The email appears to be from a trusted colleague or manager, asks for purchase of gift cards, to scratch off the panel covering the PIN (personal identification number), to photograph the card and send the picture to a contact number.  The perpetrator quickly downloads the value of the card and the money is gone.

What do you do if you receive a similar email?

  1. Break the chain.  The perpetrators are counting on you to continue to communicate by replying to their email.  If a colleague asks you by email to purchase gift cards, do not reply to that email instead: send a new email to them, talk to them over the phone, message them by text or another app, or speak to them in person.
  2. Contact your card services team at 294-7024 or
  3. Forward the email to IT Services at
  4. If you have provided pictures of the cards to the perpetrators as requested, you should also contact the ISU police department at 294-4428 or

Keep in mind

  1. Providing photographs of gift cards after they've been scratched is never an appropriate method of procurement at the university. No university employee would ask you to do this.
  2. An email that goes to your junk or spam folder is spoofing the address. A legitimate email from a colleague or manager would not be sent to your junk or spam folder.
  3. Our card provider, U.S. Bank, cannot provide fraud protection for these transactions because they have been authorized by the cardholder.   Similarly, the supplier will not be able to assist for the same reason – you as the cardholder purchased the gift cards.


Fraudsters use times of disruption and financial stress to their advantage, and our current circumstances are no exception.  Your card services team is ready to help with unauthorized transactions or other suspicious activity related to our card programs.  Please contact us at 294-7024 or if you need assistance.



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