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I've read a question around scams on one of these forums so I thought I'd give it a go to ask your advice.

A friend who I generally trust, not a close friend, though, asked me per sms if he could send me money so that I could buy gift cards for him. He wanted to come from the UK to France, where I live, to do this himself, but he can't due to Covid restrictions.

He also called earlier today, but I was working, so I texted that I will call later.

I'll call later this evening to find out about his plans.

Should I pay attention to specific details here to not get involved in any illegal / scam activity?

Would be great to have some feedback. Jones

UPDATE -------

To get more specific on the relationship: It is the owner of a volunteering project in the UK. I stayed at his place for some time with other volunteers and I experienced him as a generous, active man, in his 50s, a bit lost maybe in his world sometimes. He reminds me of Gyro Gearloose. However, slower, with quite a belly, full of ideas, maybe not having the incredible brains of Gyro.

I've called him up and after digging a bit, he explained that he would need this for a "business partner" in France and it would involve several thousands of euros in the end. He tried to assure me that this would be totally legal, of course ;). I would have only to buy 160 "PCS" recharge coupons in tabac stores and send him a photo.

He agreed to follow up with an email with more details and I told to him that this whole story seems totally strange to me and that I have less doubts about him trying to scam me, but that he is actually the one who is getting scammed. He said that he had been scammed soo many times and started enumerating those incidences.

He mentioned that he could get my bank account number simply by putting in my phone number in his Revolut App, as I also use Revolut. I told him that this would be very surprising to me, and I asked him to try it out and send me an email with my bank details.

I am far away from getting engaged in this and will not take any money from him, however, I am leaning towards trying to uncover this story and maybe even saving him from being scammed.

Thanks for you help, it's good to have a community who cares and can give input like you do! Is anyone interested how this will continue?

UPDATE 2 -------

So he tells me that this business partner of my "friend" supposedly lives in La Reunion, a French island near Madagascar. He met her first in Canada and last met her before Christmas. He said that he sends this money voluntarily, it's money from his "business account" and that it's not money he received from anyone else. I explained to him that if he would have received this money from someone else, they could "undo" the transaction, leaving him with a lot of money spend, it's the way how those scams work. I've made clear that if he sends this money via this way to her, he will not be able to undo that transaction. He said that he would only "hope" to get this money back.

I am curious to know how far he would go. He might also be innocent, getting scammed himself or involved in some other illegal activity. That's why I proposed that he could send me the money through PayPal, explaining that this is a secure way to make sure that nobody, neither him, nor the bank could cancel the payment afterwards.

He agreed, has now set up his PayPal account up and I received a first euro as a "test", he just confirmed by phone that he would transfer more than 39.000 €.

In the case that he would send this money, can I be sure that he doesn't intent to scam me? This would leave me with a different feeling towards him and I would try to dig a bit deeper on his plan with this business woman.

I intent to not take it any further than this. I saw that there is a "refund" button in PayPal, so I assume that it would be easy for me to step out. So no comments are needed on to warn me on going further, even though many of you are very likely to be tempted ;)

I wonder if he got involved in some other activity, maybe not getting scammed, but being blackmailed, or so...

Any thoughts on this and how I could be of help if any help is even needed?

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    This is absolutely a scam. If it's not a scam, it's money laundering and illegal. But 99.999% to be a scam. Lookup "advance fee fraud" in a search engine. – Rocky May 29 at 16:54
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    It's a scam. There are many similar questions on this exchange. See for example Scammed $3,000, bank closed my account due to insufficient funds for how this will almost certainly end up. – Charles E. Grant May 29 at 17:56
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    This is a scam. In addition to the question referenced by @CharlesE.Grant, see Amazon Gift Card Scam – Nosjack May 29 at 18:27
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    Hi @Thomas, that's what I am trying now, good point! – Jones May 31 at 20:02
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    One of the lucky coincidences of these particular scams is that they are intentionally obvious. These scammers don't want to waste time on suspicious individuals (like you) so they add all these "Run Away Now!" hints. This allows them to focus on gullible victims. Not all scams are that obvious, though. – MSalters Jun 1 at 0:37
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Be very cautious.

There is a scam where they try and convince you they are your friend. They have excuses about why they aren't using their phone to call you.

Make sure the logic makes sense. They are in the UK, they are going to send you money in France so you can buy a gift card, then you are to send it back to them in the UK. Why? Can't they get a gift card in Euros in the UK?

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  • Thanks, I was planning to understand why he needs this and then trying to figure out a way together with him how he could do this himself. I know this man for some time now and don't want to let him down, but will not engage in anything illegal – Jones May 29 at 17:51
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    @Jones do you know him in "real life" or just online? Sadly there are folks who will cultivate online "friends" just to run scams on them. It happens in the "real world" too, but less often, because they are more likely to suffer consequences for bad actions. – Charles E. Grant May 29 at 19:16
  • Hi Charles, thanks for your comment. I updated the "question" with more details. – Jones May 29 at 21:01
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    This is probably not who you think it is. I received something similar years ago and ignored it because it did not jibe with the person's (a former work colleague) writing style. The next day, I (and others} received an abject apology; my colleague had been hacked. – ab2 May 29 at 21:47
  • " Can't they get a gift card in Euros in the UK?" No. You can use Euros in a few stores in London, and at airports, but strictly speaking the Euro is not legal currency in the UK. But "gift cards in Euros" don't really exist - if you buy something like a Visa pre-paid gift card, the face value is in sterling but you can use it to pay amounts in any currency, just like a credit card. – alephzero May 30 at 0:39
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If "A friend who I generally trust, not a close friend" only means someone you've "met" online or over social media, then it's almost certain that this is a scam (as mhoran_psprep's answer says, it has all the hallmark's of a classic scam).

If you've actually met (in Real Life™), but only as "an acquaintance" – someone you've seen on night's out but maybe don't know where they live – then the risk is still high (the chance of genuinely wanting gift-cards is very low).

Even if the person you think sent the SMS is someone you've known personally for years, or were at school together etc., be cautious: the message may not actually have come from him but from a scammer.

Impersonating a real friend would be easier using a hacked email account (because the scammer can access it from anywhere), but with a phone:

  • Your friend's phone may have been lost or stolen. Someone may be going through that person's contact list sending the same message to everyone.

  • Someone who has your number, and knows of your friend's existence (or who has made a lucky guess) could text you from a different phone: either relying on you to "reply" or by priming you with "Hi, it's Charlie, this is my new number".

If you do take things further, make sure you speak to them and make sure they sound right, and know things that only the two of you would know.


In response to the updated details: my feeling is that your acquaintance may not be maliciously intending to scam you (although that's still entirely possible). What seems more likely is that he has been "suckered-in" by his ""business partner" in France" and either (falsely, naively) believes this is a legitimate operation, or perhaps sees it as the only way out of a difficult financial situation (perhaps from this or earlier scams where he was the victim).

In either case, whether your friend is an active, guilty party, or a naive intermediary, the whole thing is a classic scam and you should have nothing to do with it.

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    Hi TripeHound, thanks for your input. I've updated the "question" with more details about our relationship. After staying at his place, we still have regular calls to keep in touch in a friendship kinda way, but I would not consider him a close friend. – Jones May 29 at 20:33
  • @Jones Thanks for updating the question (so many don't). – TripeHound May 29 at 20:48
  • Hi TripeHound, thanks for your comment on my update. I agree completely with what you said. I wonder if I still have "nothing to do with it" if I let him try to transfer money to my paypal, without claiming it. If he would do that, I would be more confident in believing that he has no malicious intend towards me. – Jones May 31 at 19:45
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I agree with the answers which call it a probable scam, either directly or indirectly. When I hear of requests like that, I ask myself one question:

Would I give this person the money/items if it was completely unclear when and how I'd get repaid?

If the answer is "yes" then you're doing a favor for a friend. I know plenty of people who would get $10 from me on that basis. Fewer who would get $100 (but including some I know only online). Very few who would get $1,000 from me without questions, mostly family.

If the answer is "no" then it is a business transaction and for a business transaction this looks rather shady.

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  • HI o.m. , thanks for the input. I agree with you on this one. It's completely shady to me and I won't engage, but I am curious about whether he would transmit the money or not. I hope that this won't cause me any trouble, if I don't claim those transactions, however, I would be kinda assured that he is not trying to scam me. Still, engaging in anything further is out of question. – Jones May 31 at 19:57
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Your description of your "friend" as eminently scammable, should be your guiding light as to whether you should act in furtherance of this scheme.

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