Recently, I was talking to an acquaintance, and they relayed a situation that happened to them that ended up costing them quite a bit of money. On their first day of their new job, they received an email from their supervisor instructing them to go to the nearest store and purchase $500 worth of gift cards. To more experienced people this is automatically viewed as a scam, but to a new employee who is looking to impress their boss, this could have been a legitimate request to them, no questions asked. In the case of my acquaintance, this was a scam that cost them time and money, and their story has brought to my attention the need to make others aware of the ramifications of falling for this kind of scam.

How to keep yourself from becoming a victim:

Always double check the 'From' and 'To' fields of the email to verify the email addresses are legitimate.

Check with the sender in person to verify they actually sent you the email request before carrying out the request.

Look for typographical/grammar errors in the Subject line and body of the email.

What to do if you've been scammed:

In the case of the scammer requesting you to purchase gift cards, there are a few options to getting your money back. Depending on the store you purchased them from, you can return unused gift cards with a purchase receipt. Some stores will only refund up to 90% of the original amount of the gift card and others will offer you store credit (which really isn't super helpful). You should check the store's gift card return policy so you are aware of how they handle those refunds. 

Another option is to sell the gift cards to a gift card merchant for a discounted price. You will not receive the full amount of what you originally paid for them, but this is an acceptable alternative if the retailer you purchased from will not refund the card(s). With this option, you are at least guaranteed to get some of your money back.

The best option is to prevent yourself from becoming a victim by being vigilant in checking your emails for the above signs.