Recently I received an email that purportedly came from a professional organization I am a member of. I didn’t know the person, but the subject read, “American Association of Daily Money Managers,” so I reached back out. I asked the sender how I could help and I got an email that said, “I need you to go pick up three $200 gift cards for Nordstrom’s, and put them on your credit card, and then tell me how much they were and I’ll reimburse you.”

My first reaction was to be insulted. Don’t they know money managers are good at catching scams? Then I realized the whole thing was probably a blip on a computer somewhere, costing less than a penny to send.

That didn’t satisfy my curiosity as to who would do such a thing for a living. There’s a consensus that scam artists are also disasters in real life, unusually manipulative people who ply their trade in small ways and large ways. They know how people react when they use legal words, or if they are given a deadline. (Over-the-top use of legalese is a good sign that the person who sent something to you is not a lawyer or government entity.)

Scam artists are most true to their nature when they prey on the weak.

The best way to counter these evil geniuses is to never, ever open an email from them. If you reply, even to just give them a piece of your mind, you will be placed on a “suckers” list. That will begin a torrent of multiple scams being sent to you everyday. And while you may be able to filter these messages out, many people do not have that knowledge.

Unfortunately, thieves know that, often, their “marks” will overestimate their own ability to pull out of a scam. The classic “Nigerian prince” scam is a perfect illustration of this; the money transfer takes place via wire, which is instant and irreversible.

At JHA we’re always taking steps to detect — and stamp out — spam on our end, and we may be able to help you. Contact us to learn more.