OKEECHOBEE — Several Lake Okeechobee News staff members awoke to an unusual email Monday morning, Jan. 25. The email purported to be from editor Katrina Elsken and read, “I’ll need you to run a quick task. Let me know if you’re unoccupied.”
One staffer said she knew immediately it was not from Elsken, because the email address was not the usual, so she did not open it.
Another staffer replied and asked what needed to be done and when. The reply came swiftly and read, “Okay, am much busy at the moment. How fast can you get some Ebay gift cards from any nearest grocery store now ? They need to be sent out soon. I’m busy at the moment but will lookout for your reply.”
A third email read, “I need you to purchase seven cards $200 each, ( $1,400.00 in total ). When you get them scratch off the code panel, then take clear picture of the cards and attach it here. Keep the cards for later documentations you will be reimburse later today. Sorry for the stress.” The staff member immediately phoned Elsken to inform her of the emails.
Unfortunately for this scammer, he chose the wrong company and employees to try this scam out on.
None of the newspaper staffers fell for the scam.
Elsken sent an email blast to everyone in her email contacts to warn them about the scam. She also posted a warning on social media.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, imposter scams, those involving people pretending to be calling from the government, a family member, a well-known business or someone close to the victim was the number one fraud reported in 2019 causing a loss of more than $667 million to the victims. These scams are almost always paid to the scammer through gift cards.