A cancer patient from Whitby says she is upset and saddened that her friends, who wanted to help her by sending money, ended up being scammed by someone who hacked her email account.

Annette Cowan is undergoing cancer treatment and doesn’t see her friends and family as often as she would like to—but she tries to stay in touch by email. She said that one day a friend called her saying that she thought her account had been hacked.

“Then my phone rang at least 30 times that day from different people phoning me saying what's going on,” Cowan sad.

The scammer pretended to be Cowan and in messages said “Hi, how are you doing today? Please can you do me a favour?"

After getting a reply, the scammer asked Cowan’s contacts to purchase Google play gift cards for her niece’s birthday because she was traveling said she would pay them back later. One friend bought $200 worth of gift cards and another purchased $1,000. The scammers then asked for the codes on the cards so they could access the money.

“Quite a few of them ignored it and figured it was a scam and others bit right into it,” Cowan said. “I'm upset because of my friends shelling out money and I can't pay them back. I feel guilty."

Cowan has no idea why she was targeted and her Internet provider advised her to monitor her account and change her password to a more secure one. She hopes by sharing her story she can prevent others from being scammed.

Anytime you're asked to pay or send money using gift cards, be cautious. Scammers like to use them because once the money is gone, it becomes almost impossible to trace.

If you think your email has been hacked:

  • Change your password
  • Message your contacts to warn them
  • Scan your computer for viruses and malware