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I’m going to put my mom in the hot seat for a second. Sorry, mom. But it’s for a good reason.

Summer is right around the corner. Most people, me included, are trying to drop a couple of pounds before we get into those bathing suits and hit the pool (or beach, if you’re lucky). There’s plenty of ways to do this – eat your veggies, watch your portions and increase that cardio. But there’s one thing I highly recommend you stay away from: quick-fix, fat-burning pills that promise extensive weight loss in a virtually impossible timeframe.

Here’s the deal: We’ve all seen commercials for this or ads on social media. In my mom’s case, she got an email about said pills that she thought came from me.

A few months ago, mid-conversation with her, she thanked me for the email recommendation and told me she was excited to try these new weight-loss pills she just ordered. Quickly, I combed my recent memory to try and recall what I sent to my mom. I couldn’t think of it and that’s because I didn’t send it.

My mom was the victim of a classic scam where a con artist spoofs an email to look like it’s coming from a friend or family member to establish trust with the victim. From there, the email may contain a malicious link that, once clicked, downloads a virus on to your computer. Or, in other cases, the “purchase” is just a way for the scammer on the other end to collect your credit card information and then attempt to wreak havoc on your bank account. Both are common types of phishing and/or imposter scams.

It took some explaining to convince my mom I did not send her that email. Funny enough, she said, “But your Aunt Donna sent me the exact same email recommending the same thing!” Readers, my Aunt Donna lives in Denver. So, the odds that me and her are using the same weight-loss pills and sending emails to my mom at the same time are very slim. Slimmer than we are. This scammer knew enough of my mom’s personal information or, more likely, scanned her Facebook account, to spoof not one, but two emails.

In the aftermath, my mom called her credit card company and disputed the charge, which Better Business Bureau Northwest + Pacific highly recommends in these circumstances. I also advised she clear her computer cookies and history so that potential scammers couldn’t easily retrieve her passwords or account information. Finally, I gave her a crash course on the type of emails or messages not to open: Look for grammatical errors, verify who it’s coming from by calling that person and check that the website you’re being directed to is legitimate. Most important – never click a link or place an order if you’re not sure the sender is who they claim to be.

It all ended okay and my mom is much savvier now for it.

At BBB, we deal with this kind of thing all the time. For more tips on online shopping and how to spot phony emails, check out our breakdown here.

And secondly, for those of you ordering supplements or vitamins online, I’m not against it all! There are certainly healthy options that are real.  But don’t believe every advertisement you see. Monitoring truthful or deceptive advertising is at the core of what BBB does, and is why BBB was founded over 100 years ago. Avoid being duped and read about our Ad Truth program here

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Written by Danielle Kane

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