With the emergence of new technologies, it’s become easier than ever for scammers to take advantage of people, including LGBTQ+ individuals.

Scott, who used an alias to protect his identity, never thought he would become a victim of one of these scams. However, when he received an email from who he thought was a colleague, his life would change forever.

“I was surprised,” he offers. “I thought I was smart, and I didn’t think I could fall for anything like that.”

Scams have become very common in the 21st century, but some groups are more vulnerable than others to fall victim to various attempts to collect personal information and money. Around 70 percent of LGBTQ+ people are targeted in online harassment, while heterosexual individuals are targeted at a rate of 40 percent. When it comes to persistent and more serious forms of harassment, queer people are 51 percent more likely to become a target in comparison to 23 percent of their straight counterparts.

Sometimes, scams are hidden in the places where you least expect, and in Scott’s case, it was in an email sent from an address eerily similar to one of his colleague’s.

Scott had received an email appearing to have come from a colleague of his who “had a notorious reputation for being quite difficult.” So when the supposed colleague asked for $2,000 in $50 gift cards for a “seminar” and its participants, Scott didn’t question.

“It was uncanny how they picked the one person that I thought, ‘This is something I cannot question,’” Scott says. “I did it with my own money, thinking that I’d just be reimbursed.”

Scott went to his local Whole Foods, grabbed the $2,000 worth of gift cards and made his way to the cash register. When the cashier saw Scott’s hands full of assorted gift cards, she raised a few questions.

“The clerk really questioned me … even she knew something was up, and I didn’t catch it for myself,” Scott says. “The more I think about it, the more stupid I think I was, but it just caught me right at the right time.”

Financial scams don’t always involve gift cards or convincing emails. For Qnotes’ own L’Monique King, it happened when she got home from vacation.

King had just returned from visiting friends and family in New York City when a notification popped up on her phone, alerting her to a transaction on her NetSpend debit card, one she hadn’t used during her vacation.

“I know I didn’t use the card, so that prompted me to go to the website for NetSpend where I can look at my transactions,” King recalls. “That’s where the downward spiral began.”

Over the span of a week, almost $800 had been taken from King’s account. The transactions were made in India and the United Kingdom, two places King hadn’t traveled to.

“It was the middle of the night, so I wasn’t able to contact anyone,” King says. “The first thing I did was immediately cancel the card and have a new one issued.”

The next morning, King was able to get a hold of NetSpend’s customer service to start an investigation into where her money had gone.

“They explained to me that they would do an investigation which would take about 10 days,” King explains. “If they found that something fraudulent was at hand, they would return the money.”

Less than 10 days later, King was completely reimbursed after her bank concluded the transactions posted weren’t consistent with her spending habits. Despite being able to get her money back, King said the ordeal still gave her insurmountable stress.

“I won’t speak for other Black women, but for me, I think there is something that is a direct result from living in an oppressive environment that when things are good, you’re almost waiting for the shoe to drop,” she said. “I felt like I almost knew it … I was already starting to talk to myself about not getting the money back because I didn’t want to go down this spiral that I knew I would [go down] if I didn’t.”

Both King and Scott formed new habits after each of their experiences. King said she turned on notifications for every single one of her cards so she can monitor every transaction.

“I didn’t wait for the refund to start putting steps or practices in place to help me avoid a situation like this in the future,” King offers.

Scott said after he was scammed, he put a freeze on his credit so no one could open any credit cards in his name.

“Now I’ve blocked so many emails and numbers, so not many [scammers] get through,” he explains.

Scott’s advice to those who receive emails or phone calls asking for money or information: always verify.

“I think in many of these types of situations, you just stop — don’t act on anything immediately, and verify,” he said. “Just be cautious to double check any request you get, particularly when it involves a significant amount of money.”

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