my friend is bombarding me with urgent messages while I’m at work, I fell for an email scam, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. I told a friend I’d help him, and now he’s bombarding me with urgent messages while I’m working

A coworker of mine recently left my company to head up a nonprofit organization founded by his late father. The organization has very limited resources and is just getting off the ground. I told him I’d be happy to help him out with any marketing-related tasks, so long as it did not interfere with my actual work. Since he left two weeks ago, however, he has been up my proverbial ass with requests and things he “needs” urgently. DURING WORK HOURS. This week, he had the audacity to email my work email address with the word “urgent” in the subject line. Other colleagues have been included on these emails as well, but nobody seems to be perturbed.

Mind you, I told him i would help, but we never had the discussion as to what his marketing needs are and what the time commitment looks like. He just assumed he could start sending me requests.

How should I field this? Should I just not respond to future requests, or should i set the precedence that I am happy to help, but he needs to be respectful of my time and work schedule? I also haven’t received a single please or thank you for anything I have done, and that bothers me too. Do you think it is worth it to say something? He is an adult and I don’t want to scold him, but come on, dude.

It sounds like he may have had a different understanding of what “as long as it doesn’t interfere with my work” meant. He may have thought it meant you’d do stuff for him when you had downtime at work, and not realized you didn’t want to hear from him at work at all. So if you’re still interested in helping him, be really, really explicit with him about what that means. For example: “I can help you with things like X and Y, but I’m not going to be able to do anything during work hours, including fielding questions. You definitely can’t email me at work, and generally I’ll need a few days to get back to you. If things are going to urgent or need to be moved forward during the work day, that’s not something I can help with. Given that, does it still make sense for me to help out?”

Also, ask directly what kind of time commitment he’s envisioning from you in an average week/month because you might have wildly different expectations there too.

Of course, all that assumes you still want to help him. If you don’t — and it’s absolutely okay if you don’t, particularly given his apparent lack of appreciation of your work and your time — you can say, “I’ve realized this is more of a time commitment than I can take on right now so I should bow out.”

2. I fell for an email scam and cost my company money

I was recently the victim of a scam over company email and I wanted to write you for both advice and to warn your readers!

Recently a member of the executive team (but not my direct supervisor) emailed me in the morning to ask if I had any meetings or if I was available to do her a favor. There were very few people in the office and we’ve worked together for many years, so this wasn’t odd. My coworkers do these kinds of things for each other fairly often. I let her know that I was available and asked what I could do to help. She said that she was in a meeting and couldn’t talk, but needed me to run and grab a few Google Play gift cards for her for some clients. None of this raised any red flags for me, but you see where it’s going…

…It wasn’t her emailing me at all. Someone had spoofed her email address and I ended up sending over $1,000 worth of gift card information purchased with my company credit card over email to a stranger and criminal. It wasn’t until I had done everything that she asked and she requested more gift cards that it occurred to me that I was being scammed. By then the damage was done. The cards are worthless now.

The second that I realized what happened, I ran to fill in my supervisor and contacted IT and our accounting department to let them all know. Everyone was understanding to a fault, but I can’t get over it. It’s humiliating to have fallen for this. I have no experience with Google Play gift cards, but apparently they’re one of the few cards that you only need the code to redeem, not the gift card number itself.

To add insult to injury, I’m generally one of the most tech and digital-savvy people in our organization and I’ve never been so mad at myself. I’ve been trying to pay my company back the money I lost, but they won’t allow it. If you have any advice over how to move past such an idiotic, pointless, and pricey mistake, I would love to hear about it.

Your company is right not to let you pay back that money. Mistakes are a cost of doing business, and it’s in their best interests not to have employees worrying that they’ll have to personally foot the bill if they mess something up. So stop offering that! (And for what it’s worth, while I’m sure your company wasn’t thrilled to have lost $1,000, in the scheme of things that amount is not huge for most companies the way it would be to most individuals.)

This scam works because people fall for it. Chalk it up to experience, decide you now have a good story when the subject of email scammers comes up, and don’t stay mired in embarrassment about it. (Plus, you’ve done a good deed now by spreading word about it here.)

3. I don’t like my new firm’s business casual dress code

I am a lawyer, and I recently moved from the law firm I have worked at my whole career to a smaller firm in the suburbs closer to where I live. The job is great, I’m well remunerated, I like the partners, and the cases I’m working on are interesting. The firm’s culture is also very good and I’m often leaving the office by 5.30 pm.

My problem: the firm is only business dress on Mondays or on days we’re in court. The rest of the week is “business casual,” which in effect seems to mean polo shirts and chinos. The firm I came from was strictly business five days a week, and had a dress code which mandated navy/charcoal suits, solid dark ties, white or light blue shirts, cufflinks, and oxfords without brogues.

When clients come in, I have to make presentations while wearing casual clothing. I find that this means I’m being taken less seriously by clients. I’m quite young for a senior associate and I look even younger than I am. I also feel much less confident. Even when I’m sitting at my desk doing work, I feel like I’m less productive because I’m wearing casual clothing and I don’t feel like I’m at work. Whenever I wear a suit, I feel in the zone and I’m more productive.

What can I do about this? I will look very odd if I turn up to work every day wearing a suit. I also don’t think I can shift the dress code, because the partners love being able to go straight to the golf club after work and are convinced it increases worker morale. Is it unreasonable that I’m actually considering quitting my job and finding somewhere new because of the casual dress code? I’ve invested a lot of time and money in my professional wardrobe, and I feel like I’m a worse lawyer when I don’t look like one.

Dress code can be a big part of culture, and it’s possible that this just isn’t the culture for you. But before you decide that, I’d give it some time. You don’t say how long you’ve been at the new firm, but I’d give it at least a few months to see if you start adjusting. Lots of people do feel just as productive in business casual as in suits, but there might be an adjustment period before that happens.

Meanwhile, though, is there a middle ground — something dressier than a polo shirt but not as formal as a suit? Chinos and a dress shirt, for example? That probably wouldn’t stand out as too out of sync with everyone else, but would be more formal than a polo (ugh).

The issue with clients taking you less seriously is tougher, because clothes really do help convey professional maturity when you look young. Could you keep a blazer at work and put it on before you meet with clients?

Ultimately, I’d give this some time to see if you can make it work since you seem to like everything else about the job. If six months in, you’re still feeling like this piece of the company just doesn’t fit you, it might make sense to look around — but give it time first and see if you do adjust.

4. How do you ask a question you should already know the answer to?

This happens to me a lot: I start a new job, and the person who’s training me mentions something in passing (“You’ll also use these for the RF reports when I pass that task over to you”). I don’t ask for clarification because things are moving fast and our focus is on something else and honestly my head is spinning with the amount of new information I’m absorbing. Often I don’t even remember the reference.

Then it’s two years later. There was a period when I was too new for anyone to explain to me about the RF reports, and then there was a period when I’d been here so long that naturally I must know all about the RF reports — I never seem to catch the moment when it would be the right time to ask!

I know the solution to the problem at hand: I have to ask someone, no matter how awkward it feels or how much I feel that I’m losing face professionally because I don’t already have that information.

What I want to know is, is there a way to prevent this from happening? Since it’s happened to me in nearly every job I’ve ever had, surely the common factor must be something I’m doing wrong. How do I avoid having these gaps in my knowledge?

It can be hard to catch it when it’s first mentioned in the type of moment you described — when training is moving quickly and you’re already overwhelmed. The key, I think, is to believe that that’s normal and that’s there’s absolutely nothing wrong with realizing a week or two later (or even longer), “Oh crap, I have no idea what these RF reports are” and asking someone. It sounds like the crux of the problem here isn’t that you’re missing things initially — because that’s really normal in a new job — but that you’re not asking once you spot it because you feel like your window of opportunity has closed. It hasn’t!

If it’s just been a week or two, all you have to say is, “I realized that I’m not clear on what RF reports are. Can you go over that with me?”

if it’s been longer and you feel like it might not look great that it’s taken you this long, then you just own that! Say something like, “I’m realizing I should have gotten this clarified by now, but with everything else I was learning, I somehow didn’t! Can you show me how to use RF reports?” If it’s been a really long time, own it even more: “I can’t believe I don’t know this, but somehow I never learned what RF reports are when I was being trained.”

This is normal! It happens to everyone. It’s not going to make you look foolish unless you start covering up that you don’t know what they are — which can cause real problems and will reflect badly on you in a way that none of the above will!

{ 560 comments… read them below }

  1. Snowcat*

    #4 Re this: “Since it’s happened to me in nearly every job I’ve ever had, surely the common factor must be something I’m doing wrong.” It’s not! The common factor is simply that people sometimes forget to tell you things they already know. Please stop blaming yourself. This happens to lots of people and it isn’t a reflection on you.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      There’s nothing wrong with asking for clarification. And you also need a refresher because it’s been so long since you’ve worked with it.

      1. Peachkins*

        Yes, needing a refresher is a great way of putting it. My coworkers and I work with a couple of programs that are important to the company but rarely needed in our positions, and it’s not uncommon at all for us to ask each other for help when we actually do have to use them.

      2. Jadelyn*

        There are fancy things I make Excel do sometimes, but because they’re only necessary once a year, I always end up opening the prior year’s spreadsheet, staring at it for ten minutes whispering “past-me, what were you doing???”, and having to go back to the internet and google some of the stuff I was trying to do. It’s not that I don’t know how to do it – once something triggers my memory I’m like “Oh that’s right, that’s what it was” and I can fix the rest of it myself – but I use the knowledge only once a year so my brain dumps it out of the active buffer, since I don’t need it the rest of the time. I think that’s pretty common for people when there’s a thing you don’t do often.

        1. Bored IT Guy*

          You could add a hidden sheet with notes on why you did what you did.

          Or if it’s VBA macros, add comments into the macro. (Of course, that leads to comments like “I’m not sure exactly what the next line does but removing it seems to break things, so I’m going to leave it alone”)

          1. Jadelyn*

            You know, I think some of the macros I’ve done have comments like that in there, lol.

            ‘Since apparently Excel is too stupid to figure this out, this will force it to reticulate the splines. Don’t remove.

            I’ve always got hidden sheets out the wazoo in most of my stuff anyway, it’s probably past time for me to have added some documentation in there. I always overestimate my ability to remember stuff and figure “of course I’ll remember, or I just have to look at the formula and I’ll be able to tell what I was trying to do” and then…it never works.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              “Since apparently Excel is too stupid to figure this out,”
              Me, too! I don’t do much VBA but I say this to Excel regularly: “This is why computers will never take over the world.” :p
              Good to know I’m not the only one who feels this way! :)

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I hate things like this! I always forget too, so now I write procedural documents for stuff I don’t do often. They’re also handy if I’m out of the office for some reason (on holiday, hit by a bus) and somebody else has to do the thing. This means that during training, I have to take thousands of notes–I warn people training me that I’m going to ask a thousand questions and it may take longer, but I won’t have to bug you later. It helps me learn the task better, too.

      3. Artemesia*

        I would do whatever sleuthing you can do on your own to familiarize yourself with what it is; e.g. get a hold of a past report and look at it. Then when you need a refresher — you know enough to look like you need a refresher rather than are learning it for the very first time. And if you have never had to do it, that is the launch pad “This is the first time I have had to do a TPS report — could you walk me through it so I am up to date.”

      4. Solana*

        My supervisor praised me for asking questions in my review, and says that she trusts me to do things correctly because I’ll ask and make sure I understand the SOP. I’ll ask the vet tech about my mice before flagging them if I’m not sure. Something I’ve told myself and other people, “No one is born knowing this stuff.”

    2. Jasnah*

      This is a very thoughtful, self-aware instinct–“maybe it’s me?”–but unless you suddenly become able to remember everything everyone ever said to you, or learn new skills simply by osmosis, it will continue to happen at every job you get.

      Being able to honestly ask for clarification or admit when you don’t know something you should, and being able to do so in accordance with the severity of the issue, is a really difficult and useful skill!

    3. Asenath*

      You really can’t expect to know everything that’s mentioned in training, especially things that are mentioned in passing ! I wouldn’t worry about it, and just ask when it comes up again. This sort of thing happens a lot in my workplace, because there are a lot of tasks that come up only at intervals – annually, or even at longer intervals – and when someone new starts, there’s no way she can be expected to remember something six months or a year later that originally came up as a mention in passing like “We record this information weekly in the spreadsheet found here, and it’s important to keep it up to date because it’s used to generate the X forms every December.” In December, she asks exactly how she generates the forms.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      Feeling that you missed that exact correct moment that you should have said something is such a human thing, even without the work context.

      1. TootsNYC*

        oh, yes!

        But it’s a fallacy. You can always ask a question. You can also always change your mind.

        Just because you said something once (or didn’t say something) doesn’t mean you must Forever Live With the Consequences of Your (In)Actions.

    5. Just Elle*

      Agreed. There’s no shame in admitting things you don’t know. In fact there’s one executive I work with who often says “I have to confess I don’t know much about that, can you please teach me” and I really appreciate him not being such a know it all!

      Here’s one tip that works for me though:
      When I’m knew, I write down all the jargon I don’t know on the front page of my notebook. So, RF report, daily walkaround, snuffalo, whatever I hear in training or in meetings or in passing that I just don’t know the definition of.
      Then in my weekly meetings with my boss, I’ll go through the list and ask him to explain them to me.
      This has a few benefits:
      1) you don’t have to stop people every 4 seconds asking for details that might not be important yet
      2) it normalizes asking these questions so you don’t need to feel awkward about it (to be clear, you never need to feel awkward about it, but since you do this is a good trick). To this day, 2 years into my most recent role, I still have words on my list to ask my boss about once in a while.

      1. OhNo*

        That’s an excellent trick! I do something similar. If it’s something that was mentioned as a future responsibility for me, I also mark it in some way, so I remember to ask about it periodically.

        And of course, if someone expects you to know a thing, I think it’s perfectly okay to say, “Actually, we never got to that in training! I’ll ask so-and-so about it right now.” Then just go to your trainer/boss and say the same thing – we never got to X in training, but Sally from accounting wants X, can you show me how?

        I’ve found that people are much more okay with you not being trained on certain tasks if you follow up that fact with, “so let’s get me trained!”

    6. Ellex*

      This has happened to me at every job I’ve had. I’ve even perpetrated it on other people, since I seem to end up training others in every job! Even with manuals and procedures, stuff slips through the cracks., and those manuals and procedures often leave out minor but important details. In my current job, it took months for someone to hook me up with the shared website where a lot of those manuals are stored, and when I finally had access to it, I found a lot of instructions that no one thought to tell me about.

      It’s frustrating, but I’m not psychic. I don’t know what no one has told me. Embarrassing as it is, there’s no shame in saying, “Hey, this issue has come up and it seems that we never got a chance to go over it before. Can we go over it now?” Odds are, the person you’re asking is also embarrassed that they never got around to teaching it to you.

    7. Mary*

      It’s also the case that when you’re new people tell you EVERYTHING and 50% of it is stuff you never need again. I have pages full of acronyms from when I started working with doctors that I never needed again! But you don’t know that until you’ve been there a few weeks or months.

      I think the mistake you’re making is to think of induction as “people giving me all the information I need; my job is to remember it“. Actually, it’s more like, “people waving an encyclopedia at you so that in a month’s time when you know what you actually need to know, you know who to ask to find it out”.

      I was actually talking about this just this week at work: I’ve just past my first six months in a new job, and one of our managers was asking me for feedback on how the induction process had been and whether I had any suggestions. I said that I’ve just realised I need a “re-induction”: I met all these people back in August, and it was very much a passive process with me just getting told lots of stuff. I mean, I asked questions, because I’ve moved from a llama-trainer position to another llama-trainer position, so I know a lot of the stuff I’m supposed to ask about how a llama-training organisation works. But I’ve now got a much clearer picture of what works different and what I can’t assume, so I’m thinking of setting up another round of induction meetings where I can be a lot more active and precise about, “so, I assumed that this would work like this because I that’s how it worked st my old .org; now I know it doesn’t, so how does it work?”

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        I think the mistake you’re making is to think of induction as “people giving me all the information I need; my job is to remember it“. Actually, it’s more like, “people waving an encyclopedia at you so that in a month’s time when you know what you actually need to know, you know who to ask to find it out”.

        This. And for perspective, I’ve been at my current job for 4 years, and in the same career for 18. And I still have to go to my manager sometimes and say “there’s this basic thing that I probably should know by now, but I don’t – can you talk me through it?”

        I think in most jobs, there’s the expectation that you will continue to learn and continue to ask questions. And in fact, it would almost be weird if you didn’t! In most professional jobs, if you hit a point where you’ve learned everything there is to learn and you don’t have any more questions, that’s a good sign that it’s time to move on. (In my experience, anyway – I’m sure there are others who feel the exact opposite.)

        TL;DR – don’t be so hard on yourself! You’re doing fine, and it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I completely agree with this! I treat orientation like an intro-level course where the key takeaways are being aware of the things we do and the resources available, plus the how-tos of getting started on projects. There is also a heavy emphasis on the importance of asking questions and also helping your teammates if you’re the one that knows the answer.

          I also work in an industry where the work tends to always vary slightly from the last time you did it, so even if you’re an expert in llama saddles, the new project is on llama stirrups, so you have to know how the saddle works but may not have dealt with stirrups before. Know who to go to for the stirrup info you’re missing is they key part, and one of the reasons I like my company is that people are happy to answer questions, clarify (or correct) your understanding, hook you up with the right person (if it’s not them), and do what it takes to help you do the project right. They are likely going to be annoyed if you ask the exact same question 28 times or don’t seem to retain the info after the first few times, but asking questions, helping each other out, and sharing knowledge is the only way we get things done on deadline around here. No one’s psychic, and no one knows everything there is to know. :)

        2. TootsNYC*

          “encyclopedia…you know who to ask…”

          I specifically SAY this when I’m working with a newbie.
          “I’m only trying to make you a bit familiar, so you’ll know that there is more to find out.”

          And I explicitly say, “I expect you to come ask me more about this when you’ve been here long enough that the answers will make some kind of sense.”

      2. Ellex*

        That’s so common – people assume that just because you worked at Company A, which does the same thing as Company B, you know everything you need to know about how to do things at Company B. But it doesn’t work that way – every company does things a little bit (sometimes a lot) differently, even if the end product is the same or similar.

    8. 2 Cents*

      #4 It can also happen when you’ve changed jobs within a company or are assigned a new task. I’ve been in both positions: as the person explaining (and forgetting, since I’ve done it so long, that some of the stuff isn’t second nature or obvious) and as the person who, some time later, realizes that I don’t know what XYZ refers to. And sometimes when I’ve asked “What is XYZ?” the person explaining is like “oh yeah, that’s a term / thing that only happens at this workplace and you’d have no reason to intuit what it was otherwise.”

      tl;dr You’re being too hard on yourself!

    9. KR*

      Yes! I ask for help on basic industry terms all the time. I am the financial admin and purchasing person on my team so I am well versed in that but less in the technical aspects of my job. I have to ask about basics all the time mostly because I am not out working with this stuff every day and I am learning mostly by osmosis which has it’s drawbacks!

    10. Beth*

      This! The common factor isn’t you doing anything wrong. It’s that it’s inherently impossible to teach someone every single facet of a job in their first week there (and even if you could teach it, no one would be able to retain every single detail). So there’s always going to be the odd thing that everyone seems to know that you didn’t quite catch until it comes up weeks or months later and catches you off guard. This is especially common for tasks that happen relatively infrequently, e.g. that report that needs to be run once a month or that meeting that happens once a year.

    11. Indigo a la mode*

      Agreed. It’s why Driver’s Ed is encouraged instead of parents doing all the teaching – when you’ve been doing something a long time, you forget what it was like to not know anything about it. It’s easy to accidentally skip teaching things that are second nature to you, especially if they’re tangential to the matter at hand. Parent: “And remember, you can always use Cruise Control when you’re on the highway to avoid speeding.” Kid, thinking: *And…how do you turn on Cruise Control?*

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This is why it’s also very hard to teach computer stuff to your parents/older relatives.

    12. Narya*

      I feel for the OP, I am still seized by anxiety when a question pops up in my work that I feel like I should know by now, even though I’ve only been at my current job for a few months, and the people I work with, and work for, are very helpful, nice, understanding folks who don’t think twice about giving me answers. But my last job was toxic, the managers & environment were toxic, and the training was minimal for the amount of technicality involved and sheer volume of work expected of us. Things seemed to change constantly & there always seemed to be a new thing to know every single day in the year I was there. We were told to ask questions, but often when we did, we were met with snotty replies along the lines of “I can’t believe you don’t this already! What have you been doing all this time?!” Humiliating & demoralizing, to say the least. Nothing makes you feel more like an idiot than when your managers gaslight you due to their own shortcomings. I knew I wasn’t stupid, but they almost made me believe I was. I understand now that, no, I’m not actually a moron, and my new company certainly doesn’t think so, but these feelings of anxiety over asking questions are definitely leftover crap I brought with me that I’m trying to get over. That and being constantly surprised that nobody had yelled at me yet, heh.

  2. Gloria*

    LW3 – say just wear what you want! If they ask why do you wear a suit everyday say you just want to and it helps you focus. Can’t get mad at you for that.

    LW2 – I too have fallen for a really dumb scam and I thought I was tech savvy and smart. It happens to a lot of people. Hopefully your company warned everyone about spoofing and they stay more on top of monitoring that activity in their emails.

    1. another Hero*

      LW just wearing what they want risks looking out of step with the culture – but talking to someone about whether it’s possible to dress more formally and emphasizing that that gets a better response from clients might be effective.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. If it’s business casual and the OP shows up every day in a formal suit, it’s very likely that he’ll look out of sync with the culture, similarly to if it were business formal and he showed up in khakis every day.

        I do think it’s possible that he could do the sort of discussion you’re suggesting (and it might be fine! and it could turn out that a suit is his quirky thing he does there) but he does need to proceed with caution and it’s not simple as “wear what you like” or I’d go to every future meeting in sweats.

          1. Everdene*

            My partner always wears a suit to work, despite the move from business to smart casual to whatever. When it moved to ‘whatever’ he dropped the tie (but still wears one ocassionally). However he feels more in work mode when in work clothes (same as OP3 I suspect) and his promotion/bonus schedule suggests it hasn’t set him back. It also helps him relax after work as he comes home and changes clothes, phsically shifting gear.

            1. EJane*

              I moved from smart business (Stock Exchange in a major city) to ‘business’ casual (Tech firm serving a very wide area, mostly nonprofits and agriculture or materials companies; emphasis on the casual). I dress my wardrobe down by pairing my nice blouses with dark jeans, or my work pants with something less formal like my soft banana republic shirt or a sweater. I have flats, but infinitely prefer heels for the boost to my self-confidence and the change in my mannerisms.
              Literally no one else in the office wears heels. Several of our technicians wear worn jeans and pop culture tshirts.
              I look a little out of step, but I know it leaves a better impression with clients, and it’s much easier to find clothes that fit well when I can capitalize on business tailoring.

              I find it helpful to think of it as an equation: you’re trying to drop the total formal ‘value’ of an outfit from, say, 100 to about 60 or 70. Leaving a tie at home and unbuttoning the collar of your shirt= -5 points. Rolling up your sleeves = -8 points. Swapping your blazer for a cardigan or something made of a less structured material = -10 points. Bonus -5 if you leave it off entirely.
              Swapping slacks for a crisp, dark pair of jeans= -20 points. Swapping a button up for a sharp crewneck sweater = -15 points. Swapping formal brogues for a pair of chukkas or leather sneakers = -15 points.

              I find that if I keep the overall vibe of formal (for me as a curvy young woman, that means heels, slacks or jeans that are crisp and well-tailored, makeup, and appropriately-fitted tops), I can capitalize on the mental power of dressing up without looking uptight or like I take myself too seriously.

              1. AnnaBananna*

                I concur with this entire comment. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Especially appreciate the fashion math, as I tend to do it too. :)

                1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

                  It’s sort of the inverse of the negotiations I used to have with my sons when they were getting ready for church- Yes, you can wear jeans if the shirt has buttons or you are wearing a sweater; if you are wearing a glorified t-shirt, you have to wear khakis and your boat shoes, not sneakers.

            1. pleaset*

              For sure underdressing is worse.

              On overdressing, taking it up one “level” is usually fine.

              On details – business casual (in general) does not mean polos are the only acceptable shirt for men. It general means no suits and ties (what is often called conservative business dress), and probably no dress shirts with ties and odd jackets, or even suits and dress shirts without ties.

              In the OP’s case I’d wear a nice dress shirt, slacks and good shoes. That’s the higher end of business casual.

              Plus have an odd jacket (that is, a blazer or sport coat that does not match the pants) available for client meetings. But don’t wear the jacket if other colleagues in the meeting are in polos – the mismatch would be too much.

          2. your favorite person*

            whoa. My husband likes to dress up and wears ties with dress shirts/cardigan combos to work occasionally. It’s really helped him as he looks much younger than he is so it can give him a more professional look. He dresses well all the time, so it’s not out of the norm and he gets compliments on his attire constantly.

            1. sunny-dee*

              My brother did this when he first started out because he was young and needed to project a professional demeanor. He also got compliments and it never (negatively) affected him.

          3. NerdyKris*

            Careful there, or you’ll run through your entire year’s supply of snarky sarcasm before March.

            There’s a difference between wearing a shirt and tie in an office where it’s business casual, and wearing a shirt and tie while doing construction work. That’s what Allison means. If you’re massively overdressed compared to the office, it would be the equivalent of wearing a tuxedo to work. Out of place and clueless.

          4. TheSnarkyB*

            It seems like perhaps folks aren’t getting the point of the response here. There may be many people who do this, including your partners (commenters above and below), but the point is that people will be perceived differently for doing this. Its great that your spouse/partner feels comfortable doing this, but you have no way of knowing if it affects him negatively in his workplace, which I think is something important for OP to consider.

          5. AnnaBananna*

            Agreed. I dress far more formal than my peers and I’m the lowest one on the team. I don’t give a hoot. I feel better and more in control when I look my best, so I will wear more formal clothing. This means heels instead of flats, no denim (even Fridays, which is a shock at my work), never showing my upper arms, and well defined silhouettes. I also make sure I have less casual accessories.

            I too am a younger looking person. I look about 27 but am actually almost 40. So clothing helps confidence both externally and internally. I 100% supporting dressing more formal, regardless of culture (caveat: tech field and startup when you’re not in leadership or client facing).

            Go big or go home.

          6. Free now (and forever)*

            I read the previous office’s dress code to my husband, who is a judge and a former prosecutor. I must note that in a former stupid life, I was an attorney. When I got to the part about cufflinks, both of our mouths fell open. We couldn’t imagine a firm mandating French cuffs in 2018/19. For the record, my husband went to work yesterday wearing corduroy pants, a dress shirt, a tie and a sweater. Of course, when he goes on the bench, he wears a robe over everything. As a prosecutor, he always wore a sports coat and owned one suit for funerals. You can’t dress him up, but you can take him out!

        1. Just Employed Here*

          There have been occasions in the summer (so during a time with a more relaxed atmosphere than even our usual “no particular dress code”) when I haven’t gotten around to changing from my (non-sweaty) cycling gear into my casual work clothes at all… And I work in finance. It has felt oddly subversive and very, very satisfying.

          1. MK*

            I would argue that you can wear what you want “occasionally”. Reasonable workplaces won’t throw a fit over someone dressing contrary to the culture/dress code once in a blue moon. It’s doing it as a rule that might cause problems. Also, it’s not as if this is guaranteed to cause an immediate reaction/write up; but it is possible that it will affect you without you realising it. Heck, it could affect you without your employer realising it.

        2. Perpal*

          I dunno, I think it can be OK to be a little different from everyone else, depending on the overall culture and fit, reasons, etc. I’d be a little puzzled if lawyers would really find it that strange for one of them to prefer wearing business all the time, especially if meeting with clients.

          1. Lilo*

            I agree. I worked at a property management company where the dress code was SUPPOSED to be business casual, but a lot of the call center employees would regularly show up in t-shirts and gym shoes. Leasing agents tended to default to a nicer casual (like what you’d wear out to dinner vs actual business casual)

            Then we hired one kid in college who wore a suit and tie every single day. At first it was a little odd, because no one else dressed nearly to that level. But then it just became his thing and we expected it. It actually looked odd the few times he’d come in on his day off wearing casual clothes.

        3. baseballfan*

          This is true. We are jeans-casual at my office, and a couple of years ago we had an intern who wore a suit and tie every day. Granted, interns are trying to prove themselves, so this could have been his way of trying to do that – but he stuck out as out of touch. Some of the other more junior staff referred to him as “suit guy.”

          I agree with the advice that there’s certainly something in between a full suit and khakis and a polo shirt that would fit in with the office and be more comfortable for someone who prefers to dress up a little more.

          1. Krabby*

            Oh man, this! I work in a tech company so it is /very/ casual (think, people running around in flip flops and stained sweat pants). But our sales team needs to be dressed formally so they can meet with clients at the drop of a hat. In HR, I need to walk the line so that I can be approachable to everyone on staff, but also taken seriously in disciplinary meetings. My compromise: dark jeans with nice flats and a muted t-shirt. Then I have a really professional looking blazer that lives in my desk for special occasions. Yes, some people have taken to calling it, “the disciplinary blazer”, but it makes me so much more confident.

            In some offices, it’s really hard to find the right balance.

            1. starsaphire*

              I love your “disciplinary blazer!” I’m now picturing that black cap that the British judges used to put on in the movies before declaring a death sentence…

              Looking around the offices that ring our cube farm, almost every one of them has an “emergency blazer/sportscoat” on a hanger tucked away somewhere. And I bet a few of them have a pair of “not tennis shoes” tucked away in a drawer, too.

            2. Michaela Westen*

              When you say t-shirt, you mean a nice knit blouse with a scoop or v neck, right?
              Not a faded, tattered vintage band t-shirt from a thrift store…

              1. AnnaBananna*

                Hey. Don’t knock those vintage band Ts. It would actually look super cute underneath a blazer along with heels and a pencil skirt.

                Just sayin’. ;)

                Caveat: as long as it was a fitted T. A huge parachute Nirvana tshirt should be left at home for when you’re sleeping in, natch.

        4. henrietta*

          If I were in a chinos-wearing office, I would opt for twill pants in darker colors. Not khaki or putty, but dark grey or navy. And a non-polo style of shirt, like a knit button-down or poplin. Still casual, but definitely spiffier.

        5. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

          My work is technically business casual, but tends to straight up casual, but there are a couple of folks who dress more formally, including jacket and tie, suits on all occasions, heels and hose, etc.. It is seen as their own personal style more than being out of sync. I think dressing up plays better than dressing down

        6. Yvonne*

          There’s usually a tolerance for dressing above the official dress code though where there isn’t usually one for dressing below it. If I suddenly started wearing skirts and blouses with a blazer some people might find it odd but if I showed up in sweats I’d be sent home to change. Probably the only thing that would happen is OP would seem a little uptight to his coworkers. I feel like if the OP is ok with this then he should just wear a suit if he wants.

        7. Jadelyn*

          I disagree – my company’s dress code is outright casual (jeans everyday!), but we’ve got two or three employees who prefer to wear suits just because that’s how they do. Everyone just sort of shrugs and accepts it as their preference. There were a few mild comments about it at first, but now we hardly notice.

        8. ... cats and dogs*

          My boss wears a suit every day while other people are in jeans and I think it is very well received. No one has every said anything about it. Wear what you want. Say you always want to be prepared to meet with clients.

      2. Blunt Bunny*

        I think LW could wear formal clothes or more formal wear and say it’s for a new or important client or that they are having a night out after work or even that you have run out of clothes and need to do laundry. Examples of clothes could be a shirt with a jumper over and no tie which looks more formal but not “pretentious” with black/navy pants. You could leave formal shoes in your office and change when you need to. I work in STEM and it is business casual, what people wear is on a range from suits to jeans T-shirt and trainers no one cares really. For important meetings and conferences they might get dressier but it is common for team managers to wear smart shirts and jeans. Everyone is respected regardless of gender, age or business etire as there is always someone that will have different knowledge than you so everyone is worth listening to. It’s a fact that people judge people based on looks but that doesn’t mean it is reasonable. I do feel that if you look good (to you) you feel good and if you are more comfortable in a suit or casual wear and it gives you more confidence then you should be able to wear that. Which is maybe something that you should say to people that ask, that you would prefer an option rather than not being forced one way or the other. Otherwise it’s not really different than having formal wear everyday except dress down Fridays, well except that the clothes are generally more expensive and sexist.

      3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        I agree it risks looking out of step with the culture, but I don’t think he has to ask to do what Alison suggests and keep a blazer at work he puts on before meeting with clients. If anyone comments, he can just say that he feels it helps clients know he’s a “real lawyer” or trust him or something. I doubt it would be a big deal.

        1. Free now (and forever)*

          I don’t think he wants to be telling the other attorneys who hired him that wearing a suit lets the clients know that he’s a “real lawyer.”

          1. Julia*

            If he says, “you know, I’m new here and the clients don’t know me well yet, and I apparently look young, so this only applies to me”, surely he could say the above.

      4. Snark*

        I think LW3 would be way off base second-guessing their firm’s established dress culture or its leadership’s understanding of how to relate to clients! My impression is that suits are the LW’s armor against the insecurity of being young, new to the profession, and potentially not being taken seriously by clients. And that is real and important to them, but they risk undermining themselves and coming off as really precious and clueless if they start demanding to wear suits to be taken seriously. It also would give the impression they know better than more experienced people how to be taken seriously.

        1. Name Required*

          There’s a difference between “this is what helps *me* be taken seriously by clients” and “this is what helps *everyone* and you’re doing it wrong.” It’s not second-guessing to say that you feel more confident in certain attire, it’s just a personal reflection.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      #3 – I’d like to suggest breaking your wardrobe up into separates. Do this in your closet by hanging each item separately. Wear your navy blazer with grey pants. Start to include print shirts and wear them open neck. Go for casual accessories. Dump the French cuffs.

      I had this problem too when I came off a very formal program. I was wearing full suits on old program and new program was Birkenstocks and tee shirts. I slowly drifted more and more casual. I usually wore a casual item under my blazer. Then I wore a cardigan instead of a blazer. Then it became easier.

      From that point on it was easy to switch dress based on program.

      1. Yvette*

        The problem with breaking the wardrobe into separates is I am fairly sure the OP is a man, based on the description of what was normally worn at the old office. Men’s suits really do not lend themselves to being broken into separates. There is a definite difference between a blazer/sport coat and a suit jacket. And if he just wears the trousers more often than the suit jacket and gets them cleaned more often, he risks the chance of the pants fading ever so slightly but enough to no longer match the jacket. (Always clean all the parts of a suit together, even if you take it out of the cleaning bag put on the pants and spill coffee on them, get the whole thing back to the cleaners, not just the pants, because there is alway a chance of a subtle color change, not even perceptable unless it happens to one piece and not the other.)

        Wear the suit, but ditch the tie, and hang the jacket on the back of your office door when you get in. Swap out the solid dress shirts with the French cuffs and cuff links for patterned dress shirts like stripes or a dobby print with a button cuff. It goes without saying top button open. Keep a neutral tie in the office for client meetings. Get a couple of pairs of khakis and wear them with the patterned dress shirts once in a while. Get a more casual but still lace up shoe or a polished loafer. Wear “fun” socks. Get a slightly more casual belt.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I wondered if he could just wear the slacks and shirt parts of the suit? Without the blazer, tie, and any vest.

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              Yeah, and keep the tie and blazer in your office to put on for clients. I keep a suit jacket in my office just for this.

        1. Triplestep*

          Wear the suit, but ditch the tie, and hang the jacket on the back of your office door when you get in.

          This is what I was thinking.

          That said, there was a youngish guy in my previous office who wore suits every day because that’s what he had done in his former job; it was looked at as endearing and he rose through the ranks. Then there was an oldish guy who wore suits and seemed out of step; he left in less than a year for a more senior role.

          So, as with many things, LW, youth is probably on your side here.

          1. MK*

            Yes to this. Where I am from the only men wearing three-piece suits are either over 70 or under 27 years old. It reads very differently.

            1. Parenthetically*

              “over 70 or under 27”

              Ain’t this God’s own truth!! I’m cracking up, but you are totally right that the Youth these days are somehow really getting into suit wearing again.

              1. VintageLydia*

                I find men in general are putting more care in their looks, both in the office and more casually. Almost every guy I knew 10 or 15 years ago rarely thought much about their clothes but it’s fashionable for guys to be fashionable now so… I’m not complaining.

            2. Ophelia*

              LOL, Hamlet just got a 3-piece suit, and it’s his special occasion suit. It does look pretty spiffy, though it sometimes makes me think of, like, the Teapot Dome scandal or some other gilded age moment.

          2. OhNo*

            Very much agree. At my workplace, there’s me (late 20s) and an older guy (late 60s) that wear dress shirts and sweater vests on a regular basis. I’ve been told it makes me look smart, by the same people who say it makes him look like a frumpy grandpa. There’s a few details that make a difference in how it’s perceived (e.g.: I wear exclusively black and grey, he’s more likely to wear mustard yellow), but at it’s core the difference is down to age. When I wear it, people assume I’m making a style choice. When he wears it, people assume he doesn’t know how to dress fashionably.

            In fashion, as in many things, youth gives you a bit more leeway that you might otherwise get. I’d suggest easing into a more formal dress code, rather than jumping straight back into suits, but if you’re young and friendly enough, you can probably carry it off as a personal style choice.

            1. Sartorial wizard*

              Exactly. Just like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs and Larry Sonsini all have their personal trademarks, LW3 can be something of the suit guy.

              1. Snark*

                Steve Jobs was brilliant and iconoclastic and at the top of his field, and he made the adoption of a personal uniform an expression of his entire company’s brand. A brand-new, entry-level lawyer is not in the same postion to make a counterculture statement like that.

                And frankly, “the suit guy” comes off way differently than “the turtleneck guy” or “the hoodie guy.” “The suit guy” in a firm full of casual polos and chinos just comes off as prissy and overdressed.

                1. serenity*

                  I think there is a *lot* of space between a suit and polos/chinos if we’re talking about clothing for men. Leaving a job because you think there is a clothing binary (it’s either suits or polos, or it’s nothing) is nonsense.

                  OP3 can absolutely mix it up with some dressy casual button-down shirts, an occasional tie, even button-down short-sleeved shirts. And “chinos” are not the only non-suit slack pants available for men. There are some excellent semi-casual cotton mix pants (Banana Republic, Gap, J Crew) that look more business-appropriate than khakis or chinos but miles less formal than dress slacks. There are options here.

                2. bonkerballs*

                  Why? I’m truly curious why it would even register let alone make you decide that person is prissy (something you might want to unpack a bit seeing as well dressed men being thought of and dismissed as prissy has long been coding for some homophobic feelings).

          3. Yvette*

            That is an excellent point, on the older gentlemen it read as stuffy, on the younger it probably came as a respectful nod to tradition.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP#3 definitely should not wear what they want. Law is really conservative and pretty stickler-y about culture, and if a firm’s culture is biz cas, OP could suffer real barriers to advancement by declining to observe the dress code.

      1. Sartorial wizard*

        I agree with this only to a point. Law is conservative, but that also means it errs on the side of more conservative clothing, even in a “casual” environment. I do not think you will ever get to the point of lawyers wearing flip-flops. I think that law firms where a suit is fully out of place are rare, but with the caveat that that may mean shedding the tie on most days.

        1. EPLawyer*

          I know of a couple of attorneys who do wear flip flops in summer. I meet with clients in jeans. Only once did it affect a client’s opinion of me. Everyone else is just fine. They aren’t paying me for what I wear to meetings, they are paying me for what I do in court — when I wear a suit.

          OP, take Alison’s advice and see how it goes for a few months. It could be your perception of how clients are viewing you are skewed by your thoughts of how you are “supposed to look as a lawyer.” Clients tend to be too caught up in their own issues to really pay attention to what their lawyer is wearing. Not accepting of what you are saying could just be they don’t want to hear it because it doesn’t fit what they want out of the case. However, if you have demonstatable proof that your clothes are affecting your client’s ability to receive the information you are giving them then just have a jacket handy to throw on for client meetings.

          1. Sartorial wizard*

            I think this is bad advice and depends on the client base of your firm. (Note that I am not saying “no jeans, ever,” although I do come close to saying that for flip-flops.) But when you say “only once did it affect a client’s opinion of me,” you mean “that I know of.” Larry Sonsini, who basically built the legal infrastructure for startups in Silicon Valley, is famous for wearing suits, although he pairs them with turtle necks like Steve Jobs did, not dress shirts.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Unless things have changed radically in recent years, Larry Sonsinu’s firm does not have a dress code or culture where lawyers show up in suits every day.

              Also, it’s really surprising to me that the LW has not figured out to keep a suit in her office to change into for meetings with clients (or emergency court appearances).

          2. Manya*

            A lawyer in jeans would definitely color my perception of him/her. I’m not paying you hundreds of dollars an hour to look like any schmo off the street.

            1. Jadelyn*

              That’s so funny to me, because I have the opposite reaction. It would color my perception of them, but in a good way – I’d feel like they were more relatable/approachable. With the caveat that this applies to meeting with me, not to being in court. If they wore jeans to court, then I’d be less sanguine about it.

            2. Delphine*

              You’re not him paying hundreds of dollars an hour to look like anything, you’re paying him to do a job. You don’t buy his appearance, just his service.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Law is conservative culturally, and in many cases, clothing-wise. But I’m talking about organizational culture, which often veers toward sartorial conformity (including when the prevailing culture is casual). Most legal organizations/departments do not embrace people dressing far outside of the prevailing dress code, including when dress is casual.

          I’ve met a number of attorneys who wear flip flops in their office; they just don’t work in big law firms (or even large regional firms) in law’s most lawyer-heavy cities. For example, if you visit almost any environmental legal nonprofit in the coastal west (excluding NRDC), you’ll see folks in the office with jeans or hiking pants, vests, casual button-downs and sometimes even t-shirts, and footwear as casual as toe shoes, sneakers and Crocs. They keep a suit in reserve in their offices.

          If you show up wearing a suit on days when you’re not in court at a firm like OP’s, you’re going to look like you fundamentally do not understand the organization’s culture, nor are you trying to. Given the strong culture of conformity, continually overdressing comes across as a rejection of the new organization, which can then negatively affect how your peers perceive you as a team player. This is not a situation where it will serve OP to reject the office norms re: dress code.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        LW#3, I totally hear you – I dress much more formally than most of my coworkers (we’re ‘business casual’ as well, but I always, and I mean always, wear 1950s officewear, meaning a skirt or skirt suit with heels and coordinating hat/gloves/purse) and always have.

        Since I’ve dressed this way since day 1, it’s just accepted as my quirk and people rarely notice it now, because they’re used to seeing me dressed this way – it’s not me being ‘out of step’ with the culture, it’s just the way Commander always dresses.

        You can always mix it up by wearing more textured blazers instead of suits or keep your tie in your office instead of wearing it, but honestly, I feel like if you feel more comfortable and ‘on’ in a suit, just wear it. When people used to ask why I was so ‘dressed up’ I’d just say that my last job was more formal and I didn’t have a lot of business casual clothes (which was true a few jobs ago) or that I don’t like wearing pants (also true).

          1. CommanderBanana*

            No, I take my hat and gloves off when I get to my office and keep them in my little office closet. I put them on again when I leave. I wear a retro hairstyle that’s made to accommodate hats.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          That sounds so interesting. I’d love to see what that looks like.

          at the risk of being OT, have you watched Mad Men? What are your thoughts on how the women dressed on that show?

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Yep, I’ve seen Mad Men. Almost my entire closet is late 40s through early 60s clothing. Most of my work clothes are similar to Joan’s – usually sheath dresses or skirt suits.

            I find vintage clothing much more comfortable because it’s very structured and the amount of work that goes into each garment is pretty amazing. Contemporary clothing, unless you’re buying very expensive clothing, is just not made as well, which is why so much of this stuff has outlasted its owners. There was also more specificity about where certain types of clothing were worn. But obviously that style of clothing reads as more ‘formal’ to us now.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              That is so freaking cool. I have a friend who loves retro dresses, though hers are more casual. She wears them all the time and even did a photoshoot once cosplaying as Agent Carter (she’s also a huge Marvel nerd).

              I’m too tall and broad-shouldered to wear actual vintage stuff. None of it fits me. :(

              1. CommanderBanana*

                1940s! Massive shoulders were all the rage. And almost all vintage clothing has a massive selvage allowance and can be let down 3-4 inches. I’m tall and I let down the hems on most of my clothing, and vintage clothing was made with large hem allowances with the idea that it would be altered to the height of the person getting it.

              1. CommanderBanana*

                There are a lot of great Instagram-based sellers who specialize in “volup” vintage, as it’s called in the vintage selling world. It definitely is harder to find if you’re a larger size (I’m a vintage 12) but those sellers really try to find good volup vintage.

        2. neverjaunty*

          But the OP isn’t talking about being accepted as the office eccentric who likes retro clothing – she’s talking about making the suits her colleagues consider formal-only, or that might be the norm at other firms, her daily wear.

    4. Sartorial wizard*

      I would suggest that LW3 do the following. I say this as a lawyer who is a fan of suits, much like Neil Patrick Harris in HIMYM, but not of ties.

      1. Forego the chinos. I too hate chinos. Continue wearing suit trousers. Ultimately no one is going to care whether your trousers are cotton or wool, or whether they are khaki or match your top. (Suit trousers are ultimately just blue or gray chinos made of wool rather than cotton!) Avoid pinstripes, though, unless you are going for the full-on suit look that day. Stick to solid colors.

      2. Bring the suit jacket with you and suss out when and whether it is appropriate to wear it. You do generally look more powerful/intimidating with a jacket. You can always leave it on your chair for part of the time and don it when you want to be intimidating.

      3A. Do not routinely wear a tie, unless you are in court. You might also wear a tie when you meet with clients, but this may or may not be the case, depending on who the clients are. Think of this as the Bill Clinton look. (You will have enough important meetings as a lawyer that you will always get to do the full-on tie look occasionally, even in a casual office.)

      3B. As an alternative to a tie, you can wear a scarf. Think of this as the “French guy look.” Do it sparingly, as it can be pretentious, but once in a while will make you look snazzy.

      3C. Also, on more formal days that are still not formal enough for a tie, put a handkerchief (colored, not white) in your blazer or suit jacket. Make it “floppy” rather than neatly folded.

      4. Vary your shirt. On days that are more formal, go ahead and wear a dress shirt, as you did before. (See above re. whether to accompany it with a tie.) Get some dress shirts in colors other than white, because white is more “stodgy.” When meeting with clients, cufflinks are OK, otherwise no. Cufflinks without a tie can come off as smart without being overly dressy.

      On days that are less formal, either wear a polo shirt or — even more daring — wear a collarless shirt. During cooler months, go with a V-neck cashmere sweater. In warmer months, a high-end V-neck collar T-shirt of the kind sold at Nordstrom or Dillards could work, especially if this office leans more to the casual side.

      5. Periodically, wear dark jeans (ideally black or dark indigo) and a blazer, combined with smart shoes or even non-blingy cowboy boots. This makes you look snazzy without being overdressed.

      6. On shoes, avoid complicated wingtips and go for a simple, clean-line look. As always, avoid rubber soles.

      1. Lady Blerd*

        I like this. I know a young gentlemen who’s casual style is a young fogey look, basically he replaces the jacket with a pullover worn over a shirt and/or tie. There are many levels to casual before getting to chinos.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        I’m a woman so I might not be completely on point here, but I understand why OP doesn’t like polo shirts. I don’t either. They seem like the button-down’s wimpy cousin, or the T-shirt’s pretentious older sibling. Blech. Being old enough to remember the “preppies” of the 80’s doesn’t help.
        Instead of polos, I’d like to suggest OP wear short-sleeve buttoned shirts or in colder weather, long-sleeved ones, with the collar open and showing the t-shirt underneath. That would read as casual and approachable, but OP would still feel dressed. At least, I would.

    5. Blue*

      My old boss wore a suit everyday in a business casual environment and, trust me, it did him no favors among most of the office. He was generally perceived as snotty and condescending, and the wardrobe definitely played into that. So, no, I don’t think it’s wise to just wear whatever you want. I will say that he eventually realized how he was being perceived and took to ditching the jacket when he got in and only putting it on for meetings with external partners. He embraced more fun ties (and sometimes no tie), and he’d also sometimes roll up his shirt sleeves, both of which made things a bit less stiff. I think there’s plenty of middle ground here – the LW just has to try and see if it works for him.

      1. Kris*

        I am a lawyer in a workplace with a business casual default. I have a colleague who always wears skirt suits. She has a reputation for being condescending and hard to work with. For the most part, neither of these things are true about her, but desicion to dress more formally than the office culture has contributed to this misperception of her.

          1. Kris*

            Hard to say, because none of the male attorneys wear suits so I don’t have a point of comparison. This colleague is the only attorney in the workplace to regularly wear a suit, and she does so even on “casual Friday,” when everyone else wears jeans instead of business casual, so she really stands out.

      2. Karyn*

        Funny how different people doing the same thing are perceived so differently. My old boss also wore a suit every day when almost none of the other partners did, and he was one of the most well-liked partners there. In general he is just an old soul – barely 45 years old but still stands up whenever a female employee walks into his office, which, with a lot of other people would seem sexist but with him it just seemed kind of sweet. That said, I think he might be an anomaly, and that in general in business casual law firms, wearing a suit will look weird. You could probably get by with a blazer, though!

    6. Bend & Snap*

      I’m in this boat too–we dressed at my last job and now I work remotely and visit my office in Silicon Valley. My boss told me to be careful not to overdress because it’s off putting in the area and in the office. He’s been great about guiding me on what to wear but it’s pretty hard to go from business dress to casual. Like jeans and hoodies casual.

    7. Bloodsucker*

      LW3 I work in a small firm that also has relaxed the dress code. However, we have one attorney here that wears a suit almost every day and no one thinks anything about it. I imagine its because he came from a firm with a more formal structure, he invested a lot of $$ in his clothing and its what he’s comfortable wearing. At a different firm I worked at that also relaxed the dress code, I always kept a suit (I am female) in my office in case a client came in unexpectedly or I had to run to court unexpectedly. Business casual is not jeans and sneakers – it should be something you can throw a sportscoat or blazer over and it will look fine (think collared shirt and chinos). Tie is optional.

    8. Nervous Accountant*

      My understanding was that business casual could ALSO mean business formal but business formal could not include casual. Aka, to me casual means you can go either way. Although, my view is based on what I’ve seen in my own office for years.

      In my office, one of the managers here wears hoodie and jeans. Another one wears a T and jeans/sneakers one day and will wear a button down and slacks the next day (not related to client meetings). Even the CEO shows up in sweats and sneakers, and my boss wears jeans and a nice blouse. So there is a lot of variety.

    9. Legally Brunette*

      To OP3 – I haven’t read all of the comments so this may have already been stated elsewhere. As a fellow lawyer, I’m assuming you (1) don’t meet with clients every day and (2) generally you know ahead of time when clients will be stopping by. So, can you try a “dressier” business casual on days when clients aren’t coming in and wear a suit on days that they are? Then, for the latter, when the client meeting is over, you can take off your jacket (and maybe even your tie). I also recommend keeping a suit in the office for any “last minute” meetings, on days when you have dressed more business casual. I hope this helps!

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is what I was going to suggest. I work in a business casual office, but it’s not unusual to see attorneys in suits on days that their clients are in – usually, they dress to their clients (so, generally, full suit for the conservative corporate types, suit with no tie for the less conservative clients, and full business casual for the tech startup clients). It does look odd to see someone in a full suit sitting at a table with clients in graphic tees and ripped jeans.

        A number of people also keep a jacket/blazer (and, for men, a tie) on a hanger on the back of their door so that they can dress up if there is an unexpected need for it.

        Also, we have one attorney who is adamantly opposed to jeans days, which we have a few times a month, and will not wear jeans in the office. He says it feels wrong, and he still wears suit pants and a button-up shirt. Leaving the tie off is his concession. Some of his friends tease him good-naturedly, but it’s not been a big issue and it’s the only counter-to-firm-culture quirk he has.

    10. TootsNYC*

      Or wear a suit every day except Friday. (Or Thursday–some regular schedule.)
      Our OP can even say, “I hit the links on Thursday, so that’s when I dress down.” It’s the mirror image of “clients come to the office on Wednesday, so that’s when I dress up.”
      If you’re wearing suits 3 days and casual 2 days, you won’t stand out as much.

      Just as casual clothes can be dressed up, suits and formal wear can be dressed down.
      Jacket on the chair, tie loosened, sleeves rolled up, baseball cap when you go to get coffee at the machine.

    11. Blueberrie*

      When I worked in retail, we had to dress business casual, which mostly meant no t-shirts, no jeans, no sneakers. One day one of my coworkers came in wearing black dress pants, a white button-down and a black tie because he had just come from a funeral. He took his suit jacket off before he hit the floor. A manager spotted him and came down and told him he had to take the tie off and never wear anything like that again, because customers might think he was a manager. Said manager was wearing khakis and a long-sleeved polo shirt. We all thought it was ridiculous, given that my coworker had just come from a funeral.

    12. Kat in VA*

      I always wear business clothes to work (suits, suit separates, blouses and slacks, heels). I bend that slightly on Fridays and will wear finewale cords, leather boots, and a more casual, less structured blazer or a nicer cardigan.

      My company is business casual. People wear what I consider Friday clothes during the week on the regular.

      This week has been a monster week for reasons I can’t disclose, so Friday, I figured I’d earned myself a bit of a more relaxed look (but still in line with company norms). I wore cords, sneakers (not running shoes but sneakers), a long sleeved top, and a long fuzzy duster sweater. The number of comments I got was like whoa – everything from HEY YOU LOOK LIKE A COLLEGE KID (I am almost 50) to DANG YOU DRESSED DOWN TODAY to WE NEVER SEEN YOU IN CASUAL CLOTHES. I didn’t mind, but it was funny how shocked people were that “Kat isn’t wearing her usual nice clothes, what’s going on??”

      So even if you normally go against the grain of company clothing norms, people will notice if you dress in a way that’s out of step with your “usual”. If you prefer to dress up a bit more, then do so. You might not be able to whip out ALL of your suit sets every day, but you can at least pair the pants and blazers with different things so you feel like you’re getting use out of your business clothes – which is the main reason I dress up for work. I spent a lot of money on business clothes and I want my money’s worth! Also, when I’m dressed up I feel more menntally prepared for work than I would wearing jeans and flipflops and t-shirts like my predecessor apparently did. I’m sure those clothes worked for her, and no one seemed upset by it, but I prefer to have a work uniform and a home uniform.

  3. BeeBoo*

    Oh LW2, I do feel your pain! Please know that this scam is becoming so popular because it can trick even the tech saaviest of people. A friend of mine had has coworker fall victim to this same scam, only they spent $12k in gift cards before it was realized!
    Please don’t beat yourself up over this— luckily the scam was realized after the first set of purchased cards and damage was minimal. It’s a learning lesson for everyone and I’m sure no one blames you!

    1. many bells down*

      My husband told me that someone once posted in the company Slack that they’d gotten a scam email and they’d clicked the link and no one else should fall for it.

      Then he posted the link in the chat.

      Then 4 other people clicked it.

      IT was NOT happy that day. And this is a tech company!

      1. Jadelyn*

        Oh…my god. I…that…wow. “Do not click this thing: thing” *clicks thing*

        I want to post a gif of Terry Crews’ “WHY?” that he does in B99 sometimes.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        If anyone’s still hanging out in old comments besides me, can someone explain to me the danger of merely *clicking the thing*? Is it about following instructions on the page the thing leads to or a secret/unnoticed malware install or what? (I know not to install anything and I know not to follow weird instructions and I know to not put in login info even if the site looks real because it’s probably a copied site with a close but misspelled url.)

        Related: I get emails re: job offers from my college and the link usually goes to a survey scam sign-up page or a mystery shopper scam sign-up page (nothing that asks for money, just things that never ever pay out); should I stop clicking on these/risk missing actual job offers? I did sign up to be emailed about job offers, so they’re not coming out of nowhere and they have the same noreply email from the college as the real thing.

        1. shergak*

          Sometimes, just clicking the link will take you to a page that autoinstalls malware. So, you don’t have to do anything other than clicking the link, and your computer becomes infected.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Thank you! Is that something that can happen without the pop-up notification at the bottom of the screen saying something is downloading/installing or my anti-virus catching it?

    2. Jasnah*

      Many many many scams ask you to buy gift cards for someone, so much so that if ANYONE contacts you and asks you to get them a gift card, you should immediately be suspicious (and contact that person through another means, like call them or IM/text).

      LW2, maybe one way your experience can help is if your company sets policies saying to never use gift cards for business reasons (except in certain special circumstances), and to do regular spam/phishing attacks. Especially spearphishing can be scarily effective, so this is a good time for your company to beef up its security.

      If it makes you feel better, my company had a very basic phishing drill with all the normal warning signs (urgent request, “your account will be deactivated”, spelling mistakes, spoofed email address not actually from our company, Outlook marked it as spam)… and all the top executives, including HR and finance, fell for it.

      1. Super dee duper anon*

        Oh I totally second the idea of fake attacks setup by IT as a training tool! My last company would do them regularly (not too often just once or twice a year) to keep us on our toes. I’ve been taking those cyber security training modules for years, but the fact that I totally fell for the first one or two test attacks means the info clearly wasn’t sinking in. Now, though, a lot of that stuff is automatic (taking a second look before clicking links, looking at the spelling of the domain in the email address, not giving out sensitive information to random email requests, thinking about whether the context of the email actually makes sense).

        Now I’m at a new company and the IT dept thinks it’s hilarious that I’m constantly forwarding them stuff asking “is this a test?”

        1. Need a Beach*

          Fake IT attacks have done my company more harm then good. People are tired of getting scolded, no one will click on anything anymore, and Docusigns are being ignored. Work isn’t getting done. People are too afraid of making a mistake.

          1. OhNo*

            If the response to ‘failing’ one of these tests is so punitive that people are willing to ignore legitimate business emails rather than risk the fallout, your IT department is doing something very wrong.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Yeah, the response to ‘failing’ one of these tests from my employer was that I went to a page that said, ‘this was a test! Here are the clues that can tell you this was not a real work-related email, and here’s some ways you can check (im or call the sender, expand email addresses).’

              And that was all. No other impacts, ever.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                (It was very effective – I now always check full emails before clicking links unless I was expecting it)

            2. Super dee duper anon*

              Yeah – this. I can see where if they’re doing these tests too often or if the response is too puntative it would be a problem. But like you say, if that’s the case IT is doing it wrong.

              There were no reparcussions if you failed a test – I think the link just took you to a page that explained what should have been spotted.

              All I can say is it was hands down, the most effective training for me. WAY more effective than verbal lecture or little online modules/quizzes.

        2. yams*

          Goodness, that reminds me. My company sent us a training attack about a pet Halloween costume contest. I think roughly 3/4 of my office fell for that one. The pics were super cute, the mandatory training afterwards not so much.

        3. Gumby*

          We have fake phishing attacks as part of ongoing training and testing. Maybe once every few weeks I get an email that is part of the testing. I can almost always tell from the subject line. I have phish alerted a couple of legit emails – mostly from marketing people who, I assume, found me on LinkedIn and then did little to no actual research on us before emailing me about how I can use their software to manage our frequent releases to our millions of customers – except we don’t build consumer software and we have fewer than 50 customers depending on how you count.

          Though I will admit it was fairly hilarious when someone clicked the Phish Alert button for a legitimate email from the CEO!

        4. Elizabeth West*

          We had mandatory, periodic cybersecurity training at Exjob because our clients were financial organizations. It included everything from phishing to social engineering on the phone and face-to-face. I always wondered how many people just clicked through the training module (there was a quiz, but it wasn’t that hard) and forgot about it once they were done.

          Since our building only had badge access, the training also covered tailgating. No matter how many times they told people not to let in unfamiliar people who didn’t have a badge, they did it anyway. It was so common I used it in my book to get a character into a secure building.

      2. Fainting Goats*

        We have the phishing training and we have to play phishing games to pass every month. Two months ago they added that we are allowed to send gift cards out via email and the gift cards like google play and cash gift cards are not allowed to be purchased.

      3. Maiu*

        I do have to buy gift cards for my boss a lot, but I always just leave them on his desk. Now I’m paranoid.

    3. KarenT*

      How do the gift cards benefit the scammer? I keep hearing about scams like this, and wonder what in earth they are doing with $1000 in Google play cards. Can they be turned into cash somehow?

      And OP, dont be embarrassed! Spoofed email addresses are tricky–lots of people would have done the same. And clearly you learned from your mistake and wont repeat it.

    4. Emily S*

      The same scam was attempted on me a week or two ago, and in my half-awake state I was about to fall for it, but happened to text a coworker/friend to tell her about how weird this request was that I got from the company president, and isn’t president super weird?? His scam radar went off immediately, so I forwarded the email to the president’s assistant and she confirmed it was fake.

      I was talking with a friend about it last night, how the person’s writing style was very reminiscent of a scammer – a little bit stilted/brusque, which like English maybe isn’t their first language, but also reads like, “Of course this very important person is too busy to write flowery emails with adjectives, and correct every place where their iPad failed to capitalize the ‘I’ pronoun, he just needs me to get a task done and doesn’t need to make his emails look nice.”

      It’s a shame it’s SO common for business executives to have that sort of “I may or may not be entirely comfortable with typing or technology” style of writing, because it makes it very easy for a scammer to impersonate them! If I had gotten the exact same email from my actual boss, I would have thought, “Are you sure everything’s OK? Did something happen to you?” if he started writing that way – it would come across like he was extremely distracted/stressed about something or had maybe suffered a concussion or stroke. But it’s pretty much indistinguishable from how many busy/important people decide to writ emails.

      1. SurprisedCanuk*

        Was the email address the same as the company president or just similar. It is quite common for scammers to use an email address which is similar.

        1. Emily K*

          It was actually a totally different email address spoofing the president’s address. From my phone’s mail app I couldn’t see the header details so it just looked like his email, but when I later opened the email in Outlook the headers showed an “on behalf of” that made it clear it was not really him.

          1. ChimericalOne*

            Right. I almost fell for a scam like this where I volunteer because of my phone’s email app concealing the address. I was handling finances for a rather-disorganized Chief of Staff, so it didn’t raise red flags when I was asked, via email, to urgently wire money to pay off a vendor before noon & was told I’d be given all the documentation afterwards.

            Like in the OP’s example, the first email I got that morning was pretty casual, seemingly from the CoS asking if I was coming into the org’s office that day. The scammer even asked how my meeting with “Jim” (one of our other paid staffers) went. (I had, coincidentally, just had a meeting with Jim, but even if I hadn’t, it would’ve likely added authenticity.) I suspect they scraped all of our names off the website. When I said yes, I was coming in, he told me he needed my help paying a vendor. I asked several times for more details — while on my way to the bank — and eventually got frustrated that he wasn’t answering questions about even what *general* service the vendor had performed. I tried calling him & he didn’t pick up, so I hung up & sent a text just saying that this was not really okay, and that I’d do it because he said it was urgent & I trusted him that this was legit, but that I was quite upset that he wasn’t following our processes or even answering basic questions, and he immediately called me back (apologized for missing my call) & said, “Whoa, that’s not me.” We later found out that the same scammer simultaneously hit up other top-level volunteer staff and requested gift cards, and unfortunately, one of our people fell for that & sent them before we could stop him.

            The writing in the emails wasn’t great, but it was serviceable, and I just assumed my CoS was in a hurry (as he frequently is) and typing on his phone.

            I was pretty shaken up — it would’ve been a very significant chunk of money for our little organization — and actually called the police to see if I could report a cyber crime. (Hoping that they’d care more about actual organizations being targeted vs. just individuals.) They said there are so many of these, and they’re so hard to track down, that they only get involved if money is actually lost, and then it has to be a really significant amount of money.

            And, yeah, I’m pretty tech-savvy — in fact, I now work in IT — and pretty sharp, generally, but they’ve gotten a lot better as far as social engineering these goes. So, don’t be ashamed if you fall for something like this! It’s difficult to be on your toes 24/7. We’re all at risk of letting our guards down at the wrong moment.

      2. gg*

        I very nearly fell for this scam for that very reason. My boss can never be bothered to write complete sentences. And he’s always emailing me weird random requests. Add in that I got the email in early December, when we were actually buying a ton of gift cards for client holiday gifts. I only realized it wasn’t legit as I was typing a response asking what sort of cards he wanted when I completely by chance glanced at the “To” field and realized it wasn’t actually his address. So close.

        So, OP, you totally have my sympathy. And take heart, the fact that your company isn’t even entertaining the idea of you paying them back really speaks well for them.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I’m a copyeditor, and I keep saying, with all the layoffs and contraction in my field, one day a copyeditor is going to go to the dark side and work for these people.

    5. Quinalla*

      Someone at my work fell for this end of last year. They were mortified! But my company paid for it too and didn’t blame the person. Someone in our C-suite recently clicked a link too that appeared to come from someone he knew, so it can truly happen to anyone. Regardless, we have had even more training on phishing attacks and are instructed to contact the person or someone else in the company directly if we have any suspicions on something. Some of the stuff is getting very savvy and harder to detect so try not to feel too bad and thanks for warning more folks about it!

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I always have a cringing “Wait, didn’t you think about whether the IRS actually takes payment in music store gift cards” when it’s the usual version of this scam. (While knowing that, no, they are so blind with terror that they have messed up their taxes and the IRS is comin’ for them and there’s nothing they can do as a little person that the red flags don’t register the way they do for someone with an emotional remove from the situation.) This workplace version actually has the benefit of a logical reason for you to buy a bunch of gift cards.

      1. Loux in Canada*

        Apparently there are actually countries that will throw you in jail if you’re behind on taxes, so the scam can be quite successful on immigrants. This is what I’ve heard, anyways. Also, many people just aren’t that familiar with tax authorities’ enforcement methods. I work for our version of the IRS, and I try my best to educate those around me. It means I get a LOT of tax questions that I am not always equipped to answer, but hey, if I can save someone from falling from a scam…

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I wouldn’t fall for much now. But when I was in my 20s, it tripped the “Oh no I am in trouble, there’s nothing I can do but cooperate” when collection agencies called. In this case legit and not a scam, except that the only reason they called me was that I had a listed phone number in New England in the name of the person from Minnesota who wasn’t paying the charges. And it’s not like my actual name is Humbelina Humbeldinkia and there could only be one in the nation. I now seriously worry about what my parents could fall for, based on being law-abiding citizens who try to follow the rules.

      2. NotTheSameAaron*

        In Canada, scammers will call, pretending to be from the CRA, sometimes with spoofed numbers. Sometimes, they say this is your “second notice”, despite not having called before and threaten to have you brought before a magistrate if you don’t pay up.

    7. Anonnnn*

      A friend of mine came THISCLOSE to wiring a million dollars of company money to a scammer. And she’s a very techy higher up. She thought she was wiring it to a VP for use at another office. The only reason she didn’t go through with it was because a second person needed to approve the transaction and that person knew the VP was working somewhere else. If my friend had been able to send the money herself, she would have. So yah, don’t feel bad because tons of people fall for it. There’s a good Reply All podcast episode about phishing that might help you feel better too.

      1. WellRed*

        How scary! no company should allow transfers of such large amounts of $ without a second signature.

        1. Catleesi*

          PreviousJob was a bank – and as I dealt in international wire transfers, we saw a lot of this from customers. In one memorable instance, someone called in to do a transfer and it was verified by a 2nd person. The money was sent out (several hundred thousand dollars) and it turned out the email of the requester had been hacked. They took the email at its word.

          We also had an instance of a customer that did off band verification (they received an email request, they would call the client back to verify) and not only was the email hacked they somehow spoofed the phone number as well.

          These people are really good at what they do.

          1. londonedit*

            I’ve heard of scams where the scammers will call and claim to be from the victim’s bank, the victim will express some concern about whatever’s being said, and the scammer will say ‘Oh, we completely understand – please hang up and call us back if that would reassure you’. And then they somehow keep the line open, so that when the victim, congratulating themselves on being scam-aware, ‘calls the bank’ they’re actually back on the line with the scammers, who then have the added advantage of being able to ‘verify the caller’s security details’. They are indeed good at what they do.

      2. Atalanta0jess*

        Yes!! I came here to recommend this ep as well. It’s called “What kind of idiot gets phished?”

        (Despite the title, you WILL feel better by the end!)

    8. Works in IT*

      Op #2, additionally, you should probably check your email addresses on and see if any of them were on a breach list. If you were, you can expect more email spam in the next few months, and you should be aware that hackers are really good at making you see things that aren’t there. In my “how to recognize a hacker” classes I advise people to reread an email several times, and if you don’t have enough time to check all your emails, don’t speed read through them in an effort to get them all checked. That is what the hackers want. If it’s important, they WILL use some other method to contact you: Skype, a phone call, a second email, walking up to you in person, skyping your manager who knows more about the thing you weren’t sure about, etc.

      My organization has a button added to outlook that allows people to report emails to IT, so if we get early alerts we can hopefully have them pulled out of your inboxes before anyone notices.

      1. BethRA*

        Always good to see if your email has been compromised, but it’s worth noting that scams like this (or others, were someone in finance gets an email from the CEO asking for bank routing info, or something similar) can happen because someone’s taken the time to look for names and emails on your staff page or elsewhere. Just because you don’t see your name or email on haveibeenpwned or the like doesn’t mean you’re safe.

          1. Works in IT*

            Yeah, but checking will let the op know if this is an isolated (relatively) incident or if he/she should be on the lookout for more/varied attacks from multiple groups.

        1. Cascadia*

          Yes, my org is now removing all emails from our website so that people can’t spoof them, but it’s definitely still easy to do. This exact same thing was sent to at least 50 people at my company from our head and a few people fell for it. When you hovered over the email, you could see it wasn’t a real company email, but one slightly different made to look like our company email. But it had the company logo, the company signature formatting, all of that correct. It’s amazing what they can do these days!

          1. Gatomon*

            I’ve noticed a real uptick in these scams at work with much better details. I’ll get an email that appears to be from a legitimate person at Company X who I have worked with in the past, including their full name, accurate phone number and real email in the signature. All appears fine until you check the email headers and see it was sent from some obscure email address.

            I don’t even know why they bother with me — if they know enough to try and spearphish me like that, surely they know I have nothing to do with billing? I don’t even have a corporate card.

          2. Paulina*

            I know someone who was recently a victim of this scam, and her email isn’t on the organization website. Both she and the spoofed senior coworker are on LinkedIn, though, and it’s clear they’re with the same organization. Unfortunately the email address uses a straightforward format so is also quite guessable, and many mail clients routinely hide the actual address under the name so it can be hard to detect spoofing.

            She got wise before sending the codes, but isn’t able to return the cards.

    9. BadWolf*

      Yes, OP! You actually did something pretty great. You didn’t keep sending more gift cards (stopping and reconsidering). You alerted all the right people so they could jump on it (not try to hide it or ignore it). And you admitted fault with trying to do some song and dance.

      Now the company can consider their policies on training, email monitoring and about sending things like things (gift cards, cash, etc) and the pain (relatively speaking) was low.

      And perhaps most importantly if someone else does something similar or worse, they now know that speaking up is okay.

    10. MsChanandlerBong*

      We pay our freelancers via PayPal, and one guy called me said that PayPal told him his account was locked and he had to go out and buy Google Play gift cards and send them the codes to get it unlocked. I was like…wait, did you click “Contact” inside your account and call the official phone number? He hadn’t–he had Googled something like “PayPal phone number,” and the scammer was smart enough to have a website with a fake number set up (they must be good at SEO, too, because the page with the fake number was showing up right at the top of the search results). In that case, I thought it was pretty obvious it was a scam, but I can see how this would be hard to spot if the OP was used to corresponding with that member of the executive team.

    11. Dust Bunny*

      My father worked overseas off and on for the last ten years of his career. Occasionally, my mom would send him money. It took a few times for the bank to get to know her and not go on high alert when this sixtysomething woman came in asking to send money to a man in Nigeria.

      But, seriously, some of these scammers are really good. If it didn’t work, they wouldn’t still be doing it, would they? And it works on people who are smart enough to have amassed large savings accounts, too.

    12. Ama*

      In my first full time job I fell for the toner scam — I was the only full time office employee and it also didn’t occur to me that if the copier service knew we needed toner they should also know where to send it (thankfully it was a tiny business that didn’t have a corporate credit card so they tried to invoice us instead and we just refused to pay it). But I’ve since been able to warn people at two successive jobs when they’ve called those offices.

      At my current job (at a nonprofit), a usually pretty savvy colleague nearly got sucked into a fairly common nonprofit scam where someone sends a huge donation supposedly from a fundraiser to a nonprofit, then emails saying that they accidentally sent all the proceeds to the nonprofit when they were supposed to split them between the nonprofit and a family that has the problem the nonprofit supports — could you please send back the $5,000 that was supposed to go to the family? Of course the scam is that the original check will bounce and the scammer is hoping to get the “refund” before they figure that out. It was only because the scammer started getting overly insistent on getting the money back immediately, that any warning bells went off — and then another colleague did an internet search and found an article about a different org who had got hit by the same scam.

      Scammers keep popping up because they work at least part of the time, and the bonus is now you know and you can help other people spot this one.

    13. Krabby*

      Our Financial Controller is frequently (like 2-3 times a week) targeted by these types of scams because her name, current company and contact details need to be listed on a professional directory to comply with government regulations. Luckily, she is very close with our CEO and they call each other silly names all the time, so she can tell right away when it’s a scam because they use her real name.

      The better part is that our head of IT used to work in law enforcement fighting phishing scams, so he does a bunch of extra communication on the scammer to get info and then passes it along to the police.

    14. Armchair Analyst*

      This is not about a gift card scam, but please know I have too have been seduced by work-related scams (not MLM, either, but when I was unemployed a company that charges people to find them jobs… ugh! like unemployed people have money to give to you, probably not, you’re the worst!!!)

      So, yeah. Scammers are TERRIBLE people s u c k

    15. MtnLaurel*

      LW2, that very same thing ALMOST happened to my BFF. The only thing that stopped her is that she happened to see the alleged q”emailer” walking down the hall in front of her office! It’s a very well executed scam and you should totally NOT feel bad about it.

    16. Ugh scams*

      Yes LW 2 I got called by the “IRS” at work – on my personal cell – and frantically left the office to withdraw thousands of dollars to wire to them for backtaxes I “owed” etc. I figured it out JUST in time. I know it was company money on your part but these really can happen to anyone, I hope it starts to feel less frustrating soon.

    17. Nervous Accountant*

      Speaking o f scams…. just a friendly PSA b/c I’m in tax season mode..
      Standard warning has always been that IRS WILL NEVER CALL YOU.
      Apparently scammers have gotten on to this and are now forging letters that look lik e they come from the IRS when they are clearly fake.

      1. Tired*

        The IRS will never cold call you, and if you’re having a problem and are working with an IRS employee to resolve it, they will always identify themselves with their IRS employee ID number if they do call.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          Yes, exactly. In 5 years so far I’ve only come across one client who had a direct number to an IRS representative and that’s b/c they had gone through a lengthy OIC process, so this wasn’t a standard tax notice.

      2. AH*

        Yes, I’m in Canada and on Wednesday had a threatening voicemail from someone claiming to be from the Canada Revenue Agency. Again. It’s common enough the real CRA warns about it.

      3. TardyTardis*

        Fortunately for some of these people, they bring the letters into our tax office and we clue them in.

    18. Mallory Janis Ian*

      We’ve been getting these emails around the university where I work. Someone spoofs the chancellor’s or dean’s email and sends a message saying something along the lines of, “Are you on campus? I’m stuck in a meeting; can you help me out?” Except we wouldn’t be able to help them out if it was gift cards, because we’re not allowed to buy them without a form that has to be approved in writing by the procurement office. So there’s a buffer between us and the scam. But a lot of people have fallen for the part where they believe the dean or the provost or whatever needs their assistance urgently because they’re stuck in a meeting.

    19. MoopySwarpet*

      It wasn’t gift cards, but I got scammed into purchasing $1,000 worth of office supplies over the phone, once. I thought it was about $100, but they (intentionally) quoted me eaches prices and then when I ordered 2 dozen “eaches” they actually meant boxes. So I ordered a dozen highlighters and received 144 and so on and so forth with pens, staples, tape, etc. It was a mess!

      1. n*

        That’s not a scam if you were buying from a wholesale company. It’s common in wholesale to require buyers to buy a certain amount of items (usually, you buy by the case pack).

    20. IveBeenPwned*

      LW2 Here: Thank you to everyone for the kind words and horror stories. I’m still embarrassed, but they have helped me gain some perspective on the situation. I guess it could have been much worse. If sharing my semi-public humiliation keeps just one of you out of a similar situation than it was worth it!

      1. Anna K*

        I have to tell you that this whole thread has been so informative, so I really appreciate you bringing it up! I didn’t know about most of these, so was definitely not on alert for them.

    21. RNL*

      It’s so insidious! There are lots of smart people out there literally trying to figure out ways to scam you. Don’t feel too bad, OP! Lawyers get caught and send hundreds of thousands of dollars to scammers, so yours is a much smaller deal.
      The other day my assistant texted me at 7:30 am asking “what is it that you want from me this morning?” And I was like… nothing? Your usual good work, when you get to the office? I was very confused until we unravelled that she had received a phishing email disguised as being from me. We just got lucky.

      1. Artemesia*

        I just bought an expensive Condo. There were all sorts of fail safes around transfering the money. The title company would not longer accept huge transfers; I had to go to the bank in person and transfer it to an account at my bank used for the purchase etc. Our money manager told me that there have been a number of cases where accounts got hacked and hundreds of thousands of dollars were wired, never to be seen again, to fake accounts during property transfers. Imagine wiring 500K of your personal money to have it evaporate.

    22. Natatat*

      There’s a scam email currently contacting various employees where I work that looks very very similar to our official IT service request “tickets”. The IT team has sent out an FYI about the scam, but I could see many people falling for that one.

      Don’t feel bad LW. These scams are very effective, unfortunately.

    23. zora*

      Totally happened at my work, too, and my colleague totally fell for it and I think spent something like $1,000 also.

      NONE of us are thinking she is an idiot!! We all feel bad for her that she was the first person in the company that fell for it, but now we all know, so no one else will fall victim. We know she feels embarrassed, but we are just sympathetic, we know it could have happened to any of us. I’m sure your coworkers feel the same way!! We all make mistakes sometimes, and this one wasn’t that terrible, no one got hurt, it was a relatively small amount of money, and you won’t make the same mistake again.

      Please try to forgive yourself for this!

    24. Minocho*

      We need a code word for these kinds of requests. Like, my company can choose “liger”, and yours can choose “base jumping”, or something. No one buys gift cards unless the code word for your company is included!

  4. whywhywhy*

    LW2 – I’m so sorry! This happened to our head of finance with much more money; it can happen to anyone. And it seems like people are really going full force with these scams lately, for whatever reason. That’s a miserable feeling, but try not to beat yourself up about it <3

    1. PurpleMonster*

      For whatever reason? Clearly because they work really well! ;-)

      They’ve had to up their game since the number of people fooled by Nigerian inheritances and penis enlargements must have dropped drastically. I often wonder what could be done on the world if these people, who are clearly smart and creative, used their powers for good not evil?

      1. Works in IT*

        The reason is there have been a LOT of really huge breaches lately. Hackers have more targets to play with.

    2. MCL*

      This particular scam is really getting common in higher ed, where email addresses tend to be public facing and easily harvested. Basically any set of people identified as a group (like a department!) is a target for the scam, because the scammer can then identify and pose as a supervisor or colleague. Generally we have been getting this type of email from legitimate looking Gmail accounts, and the first ones that hit us were credible looking at first.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        Yes, a university in our city got scammed out of over $300 ooo recently. These scams are incredibly real-looking. Some operations are very sophisticated. I’m talking fake websites that look like the real thing, real-looking email addresses, everything.

        1. New Job So Much Better*

          For anyone planning to settle on a new home or refinance–latest scam is they will send you an official looking email informing you of a change to where the funds get wired. Call and confirm, don’t let scammers get your money.

          1. nym*

            When I bought my house, I was instructed very clearly by the real estate agent, the bank, and the mortgage lender – never, never, never change the account number. The lender delivered it to me, in writing, along with all of the other agreements I had to read and agree to before the formal closing. They must have repeated it half a dozen times: #1, we will never change the wire instructions between when you get this closing package and when you actually close; #2, in the exceeeeeedingly rare case that we might need to change the wire instructions, well, refer back to #1. Don’t accept a change by email, don’t accept a change by phone; if the wire instructions need to change, it’s going to involve lawyers and face-to-face meetings to verify.

            So always, always be extremely suspicious of any change to wire instructions when purchasing real estate!

            1. Artemesia*

              My bank recently literally had me come to the bank in person to do the transfer since there had been so many frauds committed on property transfer.

      2. fposte*

        Yes, those are the ones! “Are you in the building?” is a favorite subject line–it’s very clever as it primes you to think of it as somebody proximate.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Yes! those are the ones we’ve been getting on our campus. Our university IT has set up an email address we’re supposed to forward them to so they can investigate.

      3. Pippa*

        Yeah, this hit my academic department a couple of months ago. It just isn’t well designed for academics in some respects, though: the email appears to come, for example, from elderly Dr. Jurassic and asks targets to buy Google Play gift cards for clients with the company credit card. Immediate reaction of recipients was “you want me to buy what? For whom? With a what?” No way is this plausible. Dr. Jurassic for sure doesn’t know what Google Play is, we have no clients, and faculty aren’t allowed to use university credit cards.

        But I can certainly see why it works in other contexts, and people shouldn’t feel too bad for getting caught by it.

        1. Kelsi*

          Yeah, it didn’t work on me because the whole thing is very much not how my agency operates–we’re a nonprofit so while we do have clients, we provide direct service rather than money/gifts, and the only time we would be giving them gift cards is if another organization had donated gift cards for that purpose (so we would never be paying for them). Also, the CEO doesn’t really work directly with clients in that way.

          That said, it was MUCH cleaner than other scam emails I’ve seen–correct spelling, correct signature formatting, sent “on behalf of” her real email but also from a very similar looking fake email, and if it made sense for how our agency worked (and I had a company credit card, which I don’t, lol) it definitely could have fooled me. It’s a pretty advanced scam and LW should not feel terrible for getting taken in!

      4. Boba Feta*

        Can confirm. I got two of these within the last month that purported to come from the Chair (name in the “from” field was fine, but the actual email address hidden behind the header betrayed a source at gmail or memail or some other source).

        “Are you on campus?” Legit request since I’m part time.
        “am stuck in a meeting and need a favor” – chair is the stereotypical artsy type who never bothers with salutations or much correct grammar, so yea, it totally checked out on a quick first glance!

        As you say, all our contact info is public, so much of the work” of identifying whom to spoof and whom to target is already done for them. The bastages.

        1. JeanB in NC*

          Yeah, I had two of those recently. The first one I basically fell for but the bank caught it (it was requesting a cashier’s check for $10K!) and the second one was very close after the first one, so I sent back an email saying I know you’re a fraud so cut it out!

          Plus I was getting a lot of the “blackmail” emails where they say we’ve hacked your camera and wow, you’re appalling! Joke’s on them – I don’t have a camera on my work computer!

          1. FaintlyMacabre*

            Obviously, all scams are awful, but really? Pretending they can see you and calling you ugly? Talk about adding insult to injury!

          2. Boba Feta*

            That bit about the camera is just infuriating. Bad enough you want the damn money, but don’t be such an extra-concentrated @$$ about it, come on!

          3. Indigo a la mode*

            Oh, we got those last week…fun! The sender wasn’t calling us ugly – it was purporting to have recorded us doing, um, “appalling” things to ourselves and lambasting us for being the perverted, horrible, disgusting people we were while simultaneously demanding hush money. You know, generally businessy and realistic stuff like that.

          4. Artemesia*

            I got one of these ‘we have photos of what you did and we will send it to everyone in your email’ things. As an old lady I knew I had not done anything in proximity to my computer that would be worthy of blackmail and just ignored it, but I could imagine some young person who used porn on his computer for the usual activities and would be really frightened by the promise to send the pictures to everyone in ‘your email list’. Even knowing it was probably fake, it would be frightening.

          5. TardyTardis*

            I know, I’ve gotten a couple of those myself. Yeah, I just switched computers, no way you’ve had malware on it for a months. Nor do you have those kind of videos on me, having taped my camera for years.

        2. Elsajeni*

          Yes — on my campus, like some other folks have said, I think we were saved any actual financial loss by the red tape around purchasing, but the grammar/formatting issues weren’t the red flag they would be in some other contexts because, well, busy academics do write like that. (The one I got was also purportedly from one of our international faculty — sheer luck on the scammer’s part, presumably, but it also meant that I didn’t see errors like “I would have call you but…” as a red flag.)

  5. SAMIAM*

    #2 – Allison was right on about not beating yourself up, and it being a small amount.
    One of our Italian offices was assisting our CEO on a secret buyout project (for months). The Italian manager was helping our CEO buy another local Italian company, using local company funds. To avoid country restrictions and taxes it had to be financed and sourced locally vs our corporate headquarters in Germany. Imagine how awful he felt when the Italian manager wired $1.9 million dollars to purchase the other company… and found out the CEO knew nothing about the purchase.
    $1000 in gift cards is nothing compared to $1.9 million untraceable dollars. All by email.

      1. SAMIAM*

        Supposedly nothing…. BUT… we have an infirmed old owner whose trophy wife, who is in her 70s, running the company. She has never worked a day in the business (but ran a tiny shop 40+ years ago) took over the company last spring while we were all at a sales conference in Cambodia. She has been cutting things left and right since it happened. Our US operations have (since August):
        -Let go 3 of 7 employees
        – Got rid of our 401k
        – Got rid of our medical insurance
        – Lowered our bonuses to 1/3
        – No raises
        – 3 days ago made our Director of Sales and my boss take a 5% pay cut

        The owners wife went to one of the Eastern European offices and cut everyone’s salary by 35% right after it happened… then rewarded herself by buying $500,000 Rolls Royce for doing it.
        Supposedly no one was fired for the email scam… but we have lost 3 C Level execs for questioning her decisions since she took over.

          1. SAMIAM*

            Yes, sadly that is my current state. The remaining 4 of us are anxiously looking.
            I work from home in a tiny town… doing trade compliance, international logistics, export, etc. Its such a kitschy job I am sucking it up and hoping to make it until June when my oldest graduates. Then we will probably have to move back to a city because export jobs are not common in my midwest area.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      Wow, that’s some pretty impressive scamming right there! To be able to keep up the pretence of being the CEO for that long the scammer must have some experience of the company, methinks… Of course, if they really have access to the CEO’s email account, they can spend some time studying the communication style and company processes.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Omg I need a mouth to tell me to my face before I wire any large sum of money. What a nightmare, that scammer hit the motherload.

    3. M*

      The same thing happened to my company – the damage was 40 million euros, though, which amounted to a third of that year’s EBIT.

        1. M*

          Nope… the money vanished via Eastern Europe and China, if I remember correctly, and it was never recovered. Insurance paid for a small part of it, a few people were let go, and some silly new procedures were put in place to have something to show to the stakeholders. It was a case of very clever social engineering.

    4. Mystery Bookworm*

      What?!? How was it so easy for him to wire 1.9 million without needing anyone else to sign off on that?

      1. Phoenix Wright*

        Yep, the cynical in me kinda believes he did it on purpose, and is now 2 millions richer. It’s a whole lot of money, so it’s hard to think there weren’t any other checks or anything.

      2. SAMIAM*

        Supposedly, he just made a fake email address with just a letter difference at the end (and since we have offices all over the word, this is common – Germany has .de and Singapore has .se, China has .cn, etc.). They explained the company had done all the due diligence and research, and needed it to be completely secret as the money was being used to purchase a competitor. The competing plant was up for sale…so, whoever it was did some great research.

        1. Holly*

          I have no experience with this to back up my opinion, but this totally sounds like an inside job to me!

      3. SAMIAM*

        He was the highest up in that country office and thought it was some secret competitior purchase deal he was working on with the CEO. I guess the scammer emailed him for months over the purchase they were making.

    5. London Calling*

      *$1.9 million untraceable dollars. All by email*

      This finance professional just came over all faint. If there is one thing drummed into me and I in my turn drum into trainees, you NEVER EVER transfer money/change bank account or company details on an email

  6. many bells down*

    I’ve been at my volunteer position for more than 3 1/2 years and it was only a few months ago that I finally knew what people meant when they talked about the “jelly jars.” It refers to the shape of two of the entry vestibules. They covered some of the other weird names we have for locations in the building but that one got missed, somehow.

    1. Ganymede*

      As a member of a parish Council in a very small village in the UK, I have been bamboozled by acronyms and local government jargon. I also get involved with other leisure groups here. I make it my duty to scan every pronouncement made by our groups for “verbal assumptions” – eg selling tickets with a “child” or “family” rate without defining what that means, or saying “CLT” instead of “Community Land Trust (CLT)”. My many years in communications have proved useful!

        1. Ganymede*

          It absolutely is.

          No, I’m lying, because that is the Parish Church Council (running the church parish) and mine is the Parish Council, which is the lowest tier of local government.

          But it is a *bit* like Dibley. If you are from the UK, you will understand when I say it is JUST like Ambridge.

  7. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – If it helps, in the scheme of things you came it with minimal damage. Some people click on links that compromise the security system for the IT. Next thing you know your entire company is getting hacked. There’s some doozies out there.

    This is really a signal that your company security and IT department has some more training to do. Because these scams, like viruses, are constantly morphing.

    Don’t beat yourself up over this.

    1. Kimmybear*

      I work in IT and this happens a lot. Don’t blame yourself. More IT training is absolutely necessary everywhere but also use this as an opportunity to create stricter financial controls. Whether it’s email viruses, financial scams, or stolen computers with critical data, security and fraud have been issues at nearly every company I’ve worked at over the last 20 years.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      I think it’s really tempting for us to think of ourselves as immune to scams. Especially because many of them (Nigerian Prince, anyone?) seem so obvious as to be jokes.

      But it’s important to remember that the Nigerian Prince scheme is outrageous by design (it’s a long game, they want to select for only the most gullible people). There are other scams out there, and there is one that’s designed for someone like you. And if it hits you while you’re also swamped with work and hoping to get home to feed your kids….

      I’m not trying to suggest scams can’t be avoided. There’s great trainings and habits that can work to cut back. But I also think it’s not a huge embarrassment to fall for one. They are designed to be fallen for, and they’ve had practice with thousands of people.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I also say this because I honestly think one of the reasons these scams can persist is because we think of them as impossible to fall for. That means we assume they’ll be easy to spot when sometimes they aren’t.

        1. Asenath*

          And some scams appeal to kind-hearted people – like the variations on the inheritance ones that claim they’re raising the money for charity. It’s a mistake to think only the very stupid fall for these things – a local lawyer fell for one, hook, line and sinker, and was ruined financially and professionally. The “click a link” ones are even trickier, since it only takes a moment’s inattention, and some of them are laid out cleverly – good fake logos, no obvious spelling and grammar errors. We’re frequently being warned by our IT people about them, and even so had a major problem not that long ago. Learn from the mistake, but don’t beat yourself up over it.

          1. Elle*

            “The “click a link” ones are even trickier, since it only takes a moment’s inattention”

            Yup. We had one of these recently, and 500 staff and students at a good university fell for it over five days. It was really sophisticated – it came out at results time, and the emails distinguished between staff and students. Students got an email telling them they were in danger of failing, and to click a link to make an appointment to talk to someone, while staff got an email appearing to come from a worried student. I would have fallen for the one I got, if it wasn’t for the fact that it appeared moments after the warning email from IT!

            It took a week to sort out, with the entire IT department working on it, and at one point additional people were being drafted in to help with people reporting problems. It must have cost thousands of pounds in lost time.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            My dad figured out that the “You have won a low-level prize in the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes!” call he returned was a scam when they wanted him to send the state tax payment to an address in Jamaica before he could collect the prize.

            What he didn’t realize until later was that he’d returned the call to a number in Jamaica that was a pay-per-minute line. So most of their profit from the scam was in the phone charges.

        2. Dragoning*

          I very nearly fell for one in a chat room where I was offered a job–a job which, of course, required my SS number and a photo for a byline. But it was the middle of the night and I didn’t have a good photo of myself and wanted my father to take one of me when he woke up in the morning.

          It was only the scammer insisting I needed to be “decisive” and that I had to send him whatever photo I had right then immediately and all the information and if I didn’t I wasn’t the right fit for the job that cued me in.

          If the scammer hadn’t done that, he probably would’ve had all the information he wanted from me in the morning…if my father hadn’t managed to talk me out of it. I was pretty desperate for a job at that point.

      2. EPLawyer*

        There’s one specifically targeted at lawyers out there. Highly educated, experienced lawyers fall for it too. To the point of losing your license to practice law.

        It’s start out saying “I have a judgment to be collected in your jurisdiction.” Note the non-specificity. Not “hey I got a judgement in court in X county.” They ask for help collecting it for a very hefty retainer. Attorneys see dollars and agree. Then a couple days later a check shows up from the debtor for waaaay more than the amount owed. Original emailer says “Deposit the check, keep your fee and wire me the rest.” So attorney follows the rules and deposits it in the Trust Account. It clears the bank in 3 days. So attorney wires money. Then a week later the bank notifies the attorney it’s a bad check and they are taking the funds out of the Trust Account, i.e. other client’s money not the attorney’s money. AAAAAAAnnnnnd that’s where you lose your license.

        1. emmelemm*

          My SO is a lawyer, and he has said many times that it’s not actually that easy to get disbarred, but the absolute fastest way to do it is to “mess with” client money.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I once was explaining an email someone at work got and was all “this is a Nigerian Prince scam…” My co-worker then looked at me and asked “how do you know they’re Nigerian???!”

        My brain exploded and I knew exactly who was targeted and why.

      4. pentamom*

        My mother-in-law and her husband have lost count of how many times the grandparent scam has been tried on them. Fortunately they’re on their toes about it, because he has literally a few dozen grandchildren (when you count all the greats as well) and he’s financially comfortable enough to be a logical person for a grandchild in trouble to call first. My mother-in-law, OTOH, has only my five kids as grandchildren and the last time they tried it on her, she laughed at caller and told them she knows all her gradnchildren’s voices better than that.

        Just a couple of weeks ago, the 90+ year old mother of a friend fell for it, but she told him about it because she thought his son was the one in trouble, and he stopped her before she actually did anything.

        1. Former Employee*

          Variation on the grandparent scam. Kid was in a major US city, not in a foreign country. However, he supposedly had been in a car accident where he was at fault, wasn’t properly insured, and so was arrested as a result and needed bail money.

        2. Luisa*

          Ohh, my grandfather avoided falling for one of these due to being an overall grouchy, unpleasant man. For the record, he has 5 grandsons.

          Scammer: It’s me, your favorite grandson! I need money because of [scam reason, I forget what it was].
          My Grandfather: Who is this?
          Scammer: Your favorite grandson! Help me!
          My Grandfather: I don’t have a favorite grandson. Frankly, I don’t care for any of them. [Hangs up phone.]

    3. LaurenB*

      Yes! Those went around at my workplace last year and a lot of senior people clicked on them. I know this because their accounts were hacked and they “sent” the next messages. It didn’t involve cash, just a LOT of time for IT and a bit of national security. $1000 is really small in comparison.

    4. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

      This. Last year my team leader detected a phishing email targeted to one of our clients. Sadly, someone in the social media team fell for it and we saw in real time how the company and personal Facebook account turned into pro ISIS pages. The affected person had a meltdown and cried like a child for days.

      1. Loux in Canada*

        Oh no!! :( I can’t imagine being the person in charge of those accounts and having that happen. Holy crap, I’d feel terrible too.

    5. Anon for this*

      Yes. I heard from former coworkers about a nasty impact from one of these scams – the “VP” requested an Excel spreadsheet with specific paystub info from the previous year for everyone, because they “couldn’t access the database” right then.

      And got it. Yep, included social security numbers and other information that would allow identity theft.

      I had been gone long enough that my data wasn’t in it, but there was a lot of stress and chaos for those who were affected, so a lot of talk.

      $1000 is not good, but it’s also nothing compared the expense and freak-out level a breach of IT systems or release of confidential information as above can cause.

    6. Dr. Pepper*

      Yup. I’ve heard some crazy stories out of my husband’s workplace. Their IT department sends out fake scam emails as training to see how many people at the company fall for it. A lot do. These are smart, often highly educated people. People at the company have fallen for real scam emails. A family member of mine fell for one, the one where they tell you the computer is vulnerable and needs antivirus software from “Microsoft”. That was a bitch and a half to get untangled from, and the guilt and shame attached made it ten times harder.

      These things happen. We’d like to think we’re immune but we’re not. It just takes the right approach, and these things are constantly evolving.

    7. JustaTech*

      My company has gotten ransomware’d TWICE. We never paid up, but the restore was still a nightmare and a lot of work had to be put off for months while the beleaguered IT department got everything back up and running.

      And even after all of that we still regularly have phishing get through and IT has to send out emails saying “we don’t use Docusign, don’t click on that” or “We’re having a scam coming around, it looks like bla, don’t click on it.”

      Honestly I wish we had our phishing training more often (it’s pretty well done for a mandatory training). I also wish I could send it to my brother, who is one of those people who despite being an internet native will always click on the most virus-laden links. It’s like some kind of bizarre non-talent.

    8. the IT girl*

      I know everyone says don’t blame yourself etc BUT if your company is doing training (we do a ton of it) and you are ignoring the warning e-mails, the training videos, the newsletter articles and THEN fall for it, we in IT are going to blame you to a point.

      This happened in our company and I heard from people that it was ITs fault – until I reminded them of all the training we do…..

  8. Cathie from Canada*

    LW2 – my husband almost fell for this scam, too — he got an email supposedly from an old friend with a tale of woe about needing funding for her sister or something so could he please buy $200 in gift cards and send her a snapshot of the card numbers. The only signal that is wasn’t really her was ending the email “God bless” — his friend was not at all religious. When we googled it, we found out it is a known scam, but we had never heard of it before.
    I had a new one the other day, too — got a phone call where someone said it was Visa Fraud Division calling to check on whether I had just placed an Amazon order for $442; when I said no, the person said OK they would cancel the charge, and could I just give them my card number to confirm my identity. When I said “Hey, you called me, you should have the card number already” they hung up. I called the real Visa number and they hadn’t been trying to get in touch with me at all.
    Boy, these people are sophisticated. And Google Play needs to change their gift card procedure.

    1. Jasnah*

      “could I just give them my card number to confirm my identity. When I said “Hey, you called me, you should have the card number already” they hung up.”
      Good job! This is very savvy of you and goes to show why we should always be careful giving out information online/over the phone. If it’s a real company you should be able to confirm THEIR information by calling them back.

      1. Not An Intern Any More*

        Someone called me trying to convince me to consolidate all of my credit cards for a lower interest rate; I don’t carry a balance. He wanted me to tell him what credit cards I have and he wanted the account numbers.

        He spoke with a very heavy Indian accent. I asked him which company he represented and he dodged the question. I asked him what country he was from and he took a long pause and then said he was from Brooklyn. He hung up after hearing that Brooklyn is not a country.

      2. BRR*

        I think with situations like this it’s pretty easy to spot it’s a scam when it’s presented to you like a test but when you’re in the actual situation, it’s much harder to realize what’s happening. At least for me.

        1. Sally*

          Not always, though! My company runs phishing tests every now and then, and I’ve passed all of them but one. It did make me more careful the next time I saw something that seemed “off.”

      3. Cascadia*

        The excellent podcast reply all just did a great episode on the rise of phone scammers! They are definitely getting more and more sophisticated.

    2. PX*

      Not sure about Canada but in Europe I’ve had bank accounts in 2 different countries and every single communication they send out officially (email, letter, on the phone to them etc) emphasizes:
      1. They will NEVER ask for full credit card details on the phone. Never ever. Anyone who does this is a scammer.
      1a. In my experience when I have actually had to call them about potential fraud, they will only ask for the last 4 digits of the card and expiry date, and then use other personal details (security questions, confirm contact details etc) to verify your identity.
      2. They will typically also never call you out of the blue.
      3. If you ever feel suspicious, HANG UP and call them yourselves. It is very easy for scammers to spoof phone numbers that make it look like its from a bank. So if you ever have to give out card information (which in general you shouldnt have to), make sure it is to a line you have dialled yourself and that you have taken from an official source (bank website preferably). Never call a number you have been given, or even one that is in an email (might be a fake email).

      1. London Calling*

        *They will typically also never call you out of the blue*

        Except they do. Damned sales calls. And they get very fed up when asked to identify themselves before I give out my details.

        1. Asenath*

          I occasionally get calls from the bank – surveys to find out if I’m pleased with them, and I think an offer of an insurance policy – but they never ask for my details over the phone. If I phone them, yes, they ask a lot of identifying questions of course.

        2. Roger, that*

          Something Millenials (and younger) have learnt not to do, “answer their phones” – because it is usually a scammer, phone calls are very unlikely to be answered. Due to spoofing, the number could be fake, so unless it is a number you know, let it go to voicemail.

        3. Loux in Canada*

          I get so many of those dumb credit card insurance calls. They are legitimate, but they are still annoying as hell. I block the numbers after a few attempts.

          I once applied for a credit limit increase on one of my credit cards, and got a call about it a little while later. They had lots of information on my application, so I am pretty sure it was legit. I then never heard anything again (but did get offered a credit limit increase several months later, a bit less than what I originally wanted), so I assumed it was denied, but it’s also been quite a while now and nothing ever happened… so that was probably fine. I do worry about it though when I hear about these things!

        4. Akcipitrokulo*

          If they get irritated at basic security questions… that’s a warning sign they may not be who they say they are. If they then ask you for details, it’s a hanging up time!

        5. Jules the 3rd*

          You need a better bank. Mine only calls if my credit card has been used more than 500 miles from my home.

        6. Matilda Jefferies*

          My bank did that a few weeks ago! I deposited some money into my RRSP account online, and they called to review my investment strategy blah blah. The person was surprised when I said the bank wasn’t supposed to call me and ask for details, then annoyed when I said I couldn’t talk to him (which is why I did it online in the first place, because I wasn’t interested in discussing it!).

          It was a legit phone call from my actual bank, but I was surprised that they would even do that any more.

      2. Tisme*

        A few years ago I was called out of the blue by my card company, because of a £450? purchase from a place we don’t normally spend at. It had been flagged on their system**. They didn’t want the card numbers though, just wanted to see if the transaction was legit.

        **Thankfully it was something we’d bought. Nice guy apologised for bothering me, I said something like ‘no thank you very much for phoning, I’d much rather you double check, than have to mess about dealing with a payment that’s not mine.’

        LW I’ll add myself to the chorus of please do not beat yourself up over this, the scam as been well designed to look like a normal business practice, so its not your fault.

        1. Roger, that*

          When signing up for accounts keep track of what number you give out. I never use my cell number as my contact number. So any call from “Lisa in account services about your account” is automatically suspect when it is on my cell.

        2. Slartibartfast*

          I’ve had my credit card company call for suspicious purchases twice. Once was for an attempted purchase at a store across the country. Not me. The other I had the card declined at checkout, because of sudden increased activity. I had just moved and was out buying a bunch of stuff for the new place. Both times I was grateful for the call.

        3. Detective Amy Santiago*

          My bank actually put a hold on my debit card a couple of weeks ago because I paid a utility bill and, a few days later, enrolled in auto pay for said utility and they sent through an authorization. It flagged as potential fraud so I had to verify a bunch of transactions for them to unlock my card.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I wanted to send money to my niece using Google Pay or something. And one time I’d tried to do that, it locked my account. So I tried to call to get it cleared in advance, and they kept saying, “just do it, and then you can call us if it doesn’t go through.”

        4. Akcipitrokulo*

          Yep – difference is he didn’t ask for your details!

          Also legit ones don’t get irritated at that. So if someone is annoyed at your being safe – it’s probably a scammer.

      3. Asenath*

        True in Canada too – real banks ALWAYS make it perfectly clear how they will contact you – no phone calls out of the blue asking for banking information, no emails that ask you to click on a link, and so on. There are a LOT of bank-related scams, and some of them look convincing.

        We also get Revenue Canada scams, usually by phone calls claiming that you are being charged with a criminal offense involving tax fraud and must contact Revenue Canada (through a fake phone number or website, of course) immediately to avoid arrest. Aside from the fact that I haven’t committed fraud, I’m reasonably sure that if Revenue Canada suspected that I had committed fraud, I’d have found out about it before they sent the police to arrest me.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          My local grocery store had signs up on all the registers saying that Revenue Canada would not request payment in Visa Gift Cards after one of the workers had an elderly lady in tears trying to buy thousands of dollars worth of cards with the scammer still on the phone! Luckily the staffer member was able to convince her not to buy into it.

          1. Asenath*

            I’m glad the grocery staff picked that up. Banks have become more cautious too, especially with elderly clients who might not be familiar with scams. My late mother’s bank questioned one of her transactions, which fortunately was OK.

            Some scams deliberately target the elderly, like the phone calls allegedly from a grandchild who desperately needs money.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              My grandmother at one point got a call that her grandson was in jail and needed bail money.

              Since she doesn’t have a grandson (apart from now my husband), she just played along and sounded all horrified over the phone, asking which jail, what happened, how much is bail, oh my word how awwwwful. Kept the guy on the phone for a good 10 minutes before she started laughing and told him that she doesn’t any grandsons, let alone one named whatever name she gave him.

              Her favorite ones are the ‘something’s wrong with your windows’ scam, because she tells them all about how she needs new windows, there’s just such a draft, and they try so hard to get her to ‘understand’ that it’s her computer that’s the issue, until hanging up on her in frustration.

              However, one of her good friends *did* fall for the grandkid in jail who needs bail money and sent about $200 in gift cards before one of her kids found out and stopped it.

              1. Yvette*

                “…let alone one named whatever name she gave him.” If they do have a granson, often they themselves give away the name.

                Fake Cop Scammer: “Ma’m this is Officer so and so of the such and such police department. We have your grandson ‘deliberately semi audible name’ in custody”
                Grandmother: “Oh my god Jason.”
                Fake Cop Scammer: “Yes Jason” and off it goes.
                I told my mother in law about that, she has two grandsons and a grandson-in-law, and pointed out that quite frankly, if any of them got arrested she would probably be the last person they would call.

                1. Ama*

                  My grandma got that one too — and since he threw in “I can’t tell my parents” and all of her grandchildren are over 30 and married she knew what was up right away. But she did say she was tempted to call him the name of my cousin that is no longer living to see if he would answer to it.

              2. Akcipitrokulo*

                One of the guys in our office kept a “we’re calling about your recent injury” guy on the phone for about 10 minutes, going into more and more unlikely detail. I think it might have been the helicopters that finally gave it away….

              3. EvilQueenRegina*

                My uncle had the Windows one recently and he said “My windows are just fine, thanks, I’m looking out of them as we speak.” The scammer told him to eff off and hung up.

            2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

              My grandparents (nearly) got caught in a scam like this–their “grandson”–using the real and not very common name of my cousin–was apparently in trouble in Costa Rica, and he needed money sent wired right away and could they please not tell his parents. Fortunately when they went to CVS to wire the money, a staff member realized it was probably a scam–training people in financial services is really important!
              But really, it was creepy that they had enough info to know my cousin’s name and approximate age in order to impersonate him.

              1. TootsNYC*

                but did they know his name? Or did they just call and say, “Hi, Grandpa!” That’s how they got my dad. He has a grandson old enough to have traveled to Mexico perhaps (from Omaha, where his wife and 2 kids live? But he’s in the military and just MIGHT have gone on a jaunt with his buddies).

                They said, “Hi, Grandpa!” and he said, “Oh, hi, Greg,” because that’s the only grandson that’s of an age they he might call and sound like an adult.

            3. TootsNYC*

              My dad sent $3,000 to some scammer. “It sounded just like Greg!” he kept saying.

              So we sat my ILs and our college-age kids down and said, “This is a thing. First, the children will never call you and ask for money–they will call US. Second, you should be really skeptical about any similar calls, like someone pretending to be a cop who has arrested them.”

              A couple weeks later, my FIL gets one of those “cop arresting him” calls, and panics. He figured it out pretty quickly, but he kept going on and on about how it made him so scared.

          2. londonedit*

            Scams that prey on the elderly always seem particularly awful. There’s a daytime TV programme here that’s all about scams and scammers (can’t remember the name) – I saw one episode a while back that featured the story of an elderly woman who was basically housebound caring for her disabled husband. She had a phone call from someone claiming to be the police, saying they were investigating fraudulent activity and that her bank account had been identified as one that was under threat. They said that they wanted her help to catch the scammers – all she had to do was go to the bank and withdraw X amount of cash (they said the bank staff would be pre-prepped so they’d know what was happening) and then she was to call back and they’d send a police courier to come and pick up the cash. Allegedly the bank staff were going to secretly give her specially numbered banknotes or something, and this would somehow allow the police to trace the money that the scammers were using. So she duly left her husband at home, went to the bank, withdrew this money, then called the scammers back and waited in for the courier. He turned out to be a bloke in a taxi, but it wasn’t until she’d physically handed the money over and watched him walk back to the car that she thought ‘Hang on, that was just a bloke in a taxi, it didn’t look much like a police officer’.

            Sounds ridiculous when you see it written out like that (Police tracing scammers via specially numbered banknotes? Blokes in taxis pretending to be couriers?) but this was a vulnerable woman and she genuinely thought she was doing her civic duty and helping the police to catch a criminal, not helping that very criminal himself.

        2. Roger, that*

          Plus how would (any) government agency get your phone number? In order to arrest you or serve you papers, they would need to have your address – and if so they would mail you a letter, not call.

          1. Loux in Canada*

            I mean, a lot of times, people do give out their phone number as verification/contact info for their accounts – at least for Canada Revenue Agency. Lots of people submit adjustment requests with phone numbers, or letters saying “please call me at this number if there’s any issues” (but in my dept we don’t call, we just send letters if something is wrong with the request).

            And there are a few instances in which you will get called – for example, by a collections officer if you owe money, or if you haven’t filed a return you might get a call asking you to do so. BUT you can request to verify the caller’s identity, call the general enquiries number, and then call back later once they have verified it – the person who called you will leave a note on your account so that the rep in general enquiries can just see it and go “yup, we’re good”.

          2. EPLawyer*

            Oh there’s one going around where they call you and say there is a warrant for your arrest if you dont’ send money right away. Occasionally I am bored and will answer. I say “great, I’m a lawyer can you fax me the paperwork so I can review it first.” One guy cursed me out before hanging up.

            1. Cathie from Canada*

              The last time I got a call from “Sargent Preston of the Canada Revenue Agency” I just said “Oh, F… off!” and hung up. It was the last call of that type that I ever got.

        3. londonedit*

          Yeah we have a lot of HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs; basically the tax people) scam emails here – they’ll have all the logos and they’ll say ‘We’ve looked into your taxes and you qualify for a rebate; click this link to claim it’ and then of course the link asks for all your bank details.

          In the UK, you don’t have to file your taxes yourself unless you’re self-employed, a company director or fall under a couple of other categories – the vast majority of people have their tax collected at source, so it goes straight out of their salary each month and they don’t even have to worry about HMRC. Yet people still fall for the ‘We’ve calculated that you are owed a rebate’ because there are always legit examples that people have heard of where HMRC have got things wrong and taken the wrong amount of tax from people’s wages. And if you’re someone who doesn’t regularly deal with HMRC, then you’ll be less likely to know what their legit emails look like and less likely to know that they don’t ever send tax information by email (they just nag self-employed people like me to do their tax returns on time). I can totally see how someone who isn’t familiar with the process might think ‘Wow, really? Mind you, I did hear about Friend’s Cousin who was on the wrong tax code for months, they got loads of money back. Maybe that’s happened? Hmm, better click and see…’

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            I *did* once get a rebate from HMRC ‘cos of wrong tax code.

            They didn’t faff about with emails and links and calls…

            They sent me a cheque.

            1. londonedit*

              Yep, exactly – if they owe you money, they send you a cheque in the post. In fact they’ve only ever communicated with me by letter unless it’s inoffensive ‘Complete your tax return online by 31 January!’ emails.

            2. mouseshadow2001*

              Actually now they write to you and tell you that you have a rebate, and give you two choices a website to go to where you do put in your bank details and they transfer it into your account within a week or you can wait for a cheque which they tell you could be six months from now. But they do write to you giving all your details and a breakdown of your income and tax paid and why you are due a refund..

        4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Except…my Chase Visa sends me emails asking me to click on links all the time. They’re either fraud protection (Click no to flag this charge as fraudulent!) or rewards categories (Activate your 5% Cash Back for the quarter today!)

          It drives me nuts.

        5. iglwif*

          Yeah, I get a lot of those CRA calls. Fortunately for me, I’ve had a lot of genuine communications from CRA, so I know that when they actually want something, what they do is send you a computer-generated letter explaining at GREAT LENGTH what their problem is (e.g., “we find your charitable donations amount sketchy because it’s way more than in previous years”) and what information they want from you in order to sort it (“copies of every single donation you claimed on your e-filed return”).

          Someone who hasn’t been here long and/or doesn’t speak English that well might very well not know that :/

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        Gah. Our bank used an auto-dial system to alert us of someone using the card in South Korea. (Yes, I know. My husband is there on a business trip.) Which started along the lines “Hello, we are calling about your bank account. There are currently no problems with the account…” Look, bank, I get calls like that multiple times a week, sometimes a day.

        Same with doctor’s offices–robo-calling is such a standard of scams that I can’t believe actual medical and financial institutions think customers will happily comply with giving all our info to a recording that dialed us up.

      5. Natalie*

        Our bank actually will call you to alert you to possible fraud, but it’s a recorded message that tells you to call the number on the back of your card. Scared me the first time though!

    3. Asenath*

      I nearly got caught by one of those “I’m in and was robbed, can you please send me money to fly home” ones. I knew the person and the email address, and I knew she and her husband were travelling abroad. But then I thought “But we’re just acquaintances; why would she appeal to me? And she is penniless and without a passport, can’t contact the Embassy, and still can send emails and (presumably) receive the money?” Google is my friend, and I discovered that’s another well-known scam.

    4. Emily S*

      I got one of those fake calls on my cell just a couple days ago. The guy literally opened the call with, “Hello, I am calling from Support Department.” [pause.]

      Instinctively I actually laughed a little bit and said, “What??” and he started to say, “There is a problem in your computer….” I just laughed some more and hung up.

      It’s easy when they’re that transparent and you’re not 75 years old and you understand how computers work, but not all scams are that poorly executed.

      1. Yvette*

        I like to keep them on the phone a while, I figure any time spent with me is less time they have to scam someone who might fall for it.

    5. Ellex*

      There’s an odd one going around where someone pretends to be from your electric or gas utility and claims that they want to offer you a discount on your bill for being a good customer. This struck me as odd right away, particularly coming from a utility company, but when they wanted numbers off my last electric bill – which they repeatedly insisted wasn’t my account number – it confirmed my suspicions. Why would the electric company need those numbers, or for me to confirm anything? Or even call me at all? They should have that information already! ll I can figure is that it’s some kind of scam to get me to change my electricity provider.

      My mother probably wouldn’t have fallen for the caller telling her that I was in jail in Mexico and needed bail money…but it helped that I was standing right next to her when she got the call.

      Businesses should be able to easily block this kind of scam by putting confirmation procedures in place. Casual emails from your boss to go buy gift cards with a company card should not be standard procedure.

      1. Never*

        I’ve gotten that one. Note how they just say “your utility company” without naming which company it is.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          I got one calling because I “have a Visa Mastercard American Express Discover card.”

          So I asked: Which card are you calling regarding? I have several of those cards.
          Scammer: Visa Mastercard American Express Discover
          Me: OK, but which one? I’d like to know which card is giving out my information to third parties.
          Scammer: *verbal abuse*

        2. Ellex*

          “The Warranty department” Warranty for what? My car? Oh, the one that got t-boned 4 years ago and no longer exists? The one local dealerships are still asking me to trade in (including the dealership I did buy a replacement car from)?

          “Your credit card” Okay, which one? You don’t know? Shouldn’t you?

          “Your insurance” Car insurance? House insurance? Health insurance?

          “Your computer” Which one? The desktop? The laptop? The tablet? Oh, there’s a problem with my windows? I got all those replaced, I’m not doing any home renovations this year.

          The minute you start asking even basic questions, most of the scammers fall apart.

          1. KH*

            Yes, I’m SUUUUURE the “dealership” wants to sell me an extended warranty on a 1999 Audi A6 I purchased after it had been donated to Kars 4 Kids or something.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        Again – we would call to offer people deals/persuade them to take dual fuel/go on direct debit… but we’d not ask them for account numbers!

      3. Ama*

        It definitely is — I live in NYC and they sneak into apartment buildings here and then go door to door asking to look at your bill. Then they call “their supervisor” and ask you some confirmation questions — but what they are really trying to get is you to answer “yes” to a specific and confusingly vague question that gives them permission to change your electricity to their service — which does not actually affect your provider, but basically gives them the ability to be the middleman and effectively charge you double. In NY state at least they are exploiting a loophole in a law that was supposed to give consumers the ability to support green energy providers.

        One of them caught me at home when I had the flu, so it took me longer than usual to catch on to what he was up to — it was only his insistence that I could still get the discount despite the electric bill being in my significant other’s name that made my sick brain realize something was up.

    6. CoveredInBees*

      My mother in law recently got a text allegedly from my husband asking for money. She immediately went onto the chat app we actually use for communications and verified that he was fine. While should would have done this out of worry either way, the big tip off was “i got into some shit” No capitalization or punctuation and using a curse word in a text with his mom? Nope.

    7. IEL*

      “could I just give them my card number to confirm my identity. When I said “Hey, you called me, you should have the card number already” they hung up.”

      Oooh I got a variation of this one too. Very nearly fell for it because I had called my bank the previous day and I was expecting them to call me back, the number was spoofed and seemed legit. They said they needed more details to follow up on my request. I’m usually tech savvy but I was stressed because of this urgent unresolved issue, so I was halfway through giving them my social security number when alarm bells wenf off. Luckily I hadn’t given them any info yet, I immediately stopped and called the bank and they confirmed that they had not contacted me. It would have been so easy to fall for it.

    8. Never*

      “Visa Fraud Division”? lol what? The bank that issued the card would call you, not “Visa.”

    9. DAMitsDevon*

      I know someone who got a very similar email to the one LW2 got, except it was supposedly from her director supervisor and they were asking for iTunes gift cards. She knew it was a scam from the get go, but instead of reporting it, decided to mess with the scammer and basically kept leading him on by continually sending out emails like, “I haven’t gotten a chance to yet, but I will get you those gift cards!” She also made up some story about being in love with her boss, and made the scammer play along, to the point where she had set up a fake date in a fake location with them. I think she managed to drag it out for a few days before the scammer lost his patience.

  9. SS Express*

    #2, I work for a large government organisation – scammers often say they’re from our organisation, I guess because people are more likely to comply with a request that comes from “the government”, so we get a lot of internal communications about the latest scams and what to do if victims contact us. We take security really seriously here so there are plenty of reminders and training sessions about avoiding scams too – we even had a “scam drill” recently where IT sent fake scam emails to people to see if we handled them correctly.

    But with all this scam awareness, if I got an email from a department executive asking me to purchase some gift cards for a business purpose, I’d probably just do it too!

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Any chance you work for the VPOTUS? I got a scam email recently from “Mike Pence” and the return email address was from Japan but the email in the sig was mrmikepence70@gmail or something like that. Oh, and they wanted to make sure that my check for $20 billion that I sent to a bank in Switzerland was deposited correctly. Apart from the usual personal info they wanted from me, they also wanted to know my marital status. Super duper weird.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Hunh – are gift cards a common thing to purchase, then? Because it seems it would be weird for a govt entity to buy them. I’d think bonuses or business gifts had some pretty tight restrictions.

  10. Llellayena*

    OP 4: 6 years in and I STILL have to ask how to fill out an expense report. It’s never too late to ask to learn!

    1. Triplestep*

      It is never too late to ask, but if you’re talking about something you’ve been shown how to do again and again over six years, it’s not what the LW is talking about.

      The question was about learning something once during a knowledge transfer, and then having it come again much later. Sounds like someone has been doing your expense reports (or showing you how) for six years, and they are probably wishing you’d take notes or something! Not the same.

      1. doreen*

        It depends- when I was hired, the initial training included completing expense reports. People who travel once every two or three years have questions every time and it’s no problem- even if remember how they did it three years ago, something has probably changed. People who travel every month and don’t know how to do them are another story.

        1. Environmental Compliance*


          Having a question on something you very rarely do is considerably different than questioning something you do regularly.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Yes – whenever we have hourly folks travel for work, we always get a ton of questions from them/their manager about how to calculate their timesheet for the trip. We don’t get upset, because we know that this manager has probably only had to do this once or twice a year at most, and the hourly person maybe never before. If one of our “frequent flyers” suddenly needed help, then there’d be an issue, but when it’s someone who does it rarely, people will be more forgiving.

        3. JustaTech*

          Yeah, I rarely travel for work, so when I went to a conference I made sure to take my time with Concur (grr), but even then I asked our admin what the right code was for one thing and she offered to come over and check the whole thing before I submitted it.
          Everything was correct, but it was a lot of money and I wanted to be sure I was doing it right.

  11. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I have two suggestions and one question.

    Suggestion #1: Try aiming for one step more formal than your office so that you feel more comfortable but are not wildly out of sync. If chinos/khakis feel too casual, maybe slacks and a dress shirt, no tie, and a sports coat in reserve could get you by. Or khakis/slacks and a nice Banana-Republic-style sweater, no collared shirt underneath.

    Suggestion #2: Alternately, you could break up your current wardrobe into separates instead of suits, which will give you more options.

    Question: I don’t at all intend to question your perception of what’s happening, but do clients treat you differently because of your attire, or do they treat you differently because you feel less comfortable when you’re dressed more casually than you’re used to?

    I ask this because I look younger than my age, I frequently wear casual attire for client meetings or presentations (my clients are way more uncomfortable if I’m in a suit), and I suit up anytime I have to appear on behalf of my client (administrative proceedings, legislative hearings, court appearances). What I wear absolutely affects how I feel, but it doesn’t affect my feelings about my competency. It sounds like the more casual dress code might be undercutting your confidence, and clients may be subconsciously picking up on that. Figuring out whether it’s your wardrobe or your feelings when you wear certain clothes may change which tactics you use to address the issue.

    1. Jasnah*

      Your last point is very good! OP may just feel not quite right in the clothes yet. Maybe wearing a “formal underlayer” will help–I have sweat-wicking shirts I wear for presentation days, maybe OP can wear that under normal clothes to create the feeling of dressing up, while dressing down.

      My area’s go-to is basically business casual, with a suit jacket in the closet in case you need to dress up. Could you do the reverse? Wear trousers and a very casual sweater or polo shirt, then you can remove the sweater/polo and add a collared shirt and blazer for Go Time?

      1. T3k*

        Seconded. I’m the exact opposite of the LW (I wear tees/jeans everyday and will give death glares if you try to get me to dress up anymore than that) and used to be very uncomfortable with myself when I was required to dress up a bit. However, I eventually found what was wrong was I just didn’t have a nicer wardrobe I actually liked and so I slowly built up a small set of nice shirts/pants. Now, while you still won’t really catch me dressed up much (thank you casual office culture!) I feel as confident in them as my tees and jeans.

    2. Llamalawyer*

      I also wonder if the firm services a certain industry that is more casual- construction, tech, etc. They may have this dress code to make clients more comfortable or to appear in tune with the culture of the industries that they serve.

      1. Wednesday's Child*

        That’s a good point. My spouse worked in construction as a project manager. Buttons were the thing that differentiated various employees and even level of meeting importance. Field/site workers wore tshirts. Office people wore polos. Progress meetings were either really nice polos if the project was going well, or button down shirts if there were issues to be addressed. Signing-paper meetings or attorney meetings were a button-down with a tie.

      2. Anononon*

        Not necessarily. My firm is in the finance industry, with most of our clients being banks. The dress code for the staff is casual – sneakers, jeans, tshirts are all acceptable. For attorneys, if we don’t have court, we usually do smart casual. Even when we have client visits, only for some is business casual required for the staff (the couple people who host the visits generally where suits or other business dress).

      3. Garrett*

        Agreed. If the firm has been around a while, the long-term clients may be more comfortable/prefer the more casual vibe of the lawyers. If you go against that, it may possibly alienate some of them.

      4. emmelemm*

        My SO is a lawyer and he was working at a firm that did construction defect and insurance cases, and he said he definitely always dressed “down”-ish to meet with construction guys, especially if deposing them, etc., because it made *them* feel more at ease.

    3. Fainting Goats*

      My husband grew up wearing a suit and tie and now offices have went casual and he has not handled the move well. He has found his moderately almost happy medium by still wearing a crisp button up shirt, a blazer, slacks, and dress shoes. He still eyes his ties in the morning and will sometimes say screw it and put one on, he really feels like he is complete with a tie but hates that he has to hear 4000 times a day “Are you going for an interview?”. One of the interns came in the other day in leggings and a full sequined top that didn’t cover her butt, he had to come home early after his boss said she looked comfortable.

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      This was my thought as well. A nice button-down and slacks and a tie isn’t far enough out of line from business casual to stick out in my opinion. A subset of clients expect their attorney to wear a suit and drive a nice car. It’s silly and inconsequential, but it is a real thing that impacts the business. If you do dress more formal than the rest of the firm, you do have to go out of your way to ensure you don’t get a reputation for being condescending. Make sure to be humble and collaborative with your colleagues.

      That being said, I would never break up a suit into separates though.

    5. NowWhat??*

      Another way to adjust is to dress in your normal business attire and add/subtract one. A lot of the men in my office wear dress slacks/suit bottoms, a dress shirt, tie, and then have a fleece vest over it. Another popular one is a suit with a button down, but no tie.

      It can definitely be an adjustment. We’ve had a lot of people come from formal offices that have a bit of adjustment period to our business-casual office. We’ve also had a few people who are young in their careers and have advanced quickly or just look young in general (I am one of them!), and they all look much more appropriate in the business casual uniform than in their suits as the formal attire can stick out even more when you’re on the young side.

      1. CM*

        The fleece vest is a good one, although it probably depends on where you live (here in New England it’s pretty common). It instantly makes your outfit casual, and it’s easy to swap for a jacket if you have a client meeting.

        My thought is to change into a suit for client meetings, or maybe on days when you have client meetings, wear a button-down shirt and pants to work and bring along a tie and jacket to put on for the meeting. But you’d have to think about whether your clients actually expect you to be casual like the rest of the firm, or whether they want to see you in a suit.

        Speaking as a fellow attorney who found it hard to be taken seriously when I was younger, you might also think about ways to appear more authoritative that don’t involve wearing a suit. For example, carry a nice portfolio or briefcase, use a fountain pen, get some coaching about the way you speak. (For me, it helped to smile less and be ultra-prepared. I also dressed a bit older than I was, but I think it’s easier for women to change their appearance by using accessories like scarves and having a more conservative haircut.)

    6. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I think this might be the rare case that is more sartorially challenging for men than women. There are so many variations in style and level of formality for women’s clothes — which usually makes things harder for us, but in this case would let the LW step it up without awkwardly wearing a full suit in a casual office.

      I tend to dress up more than most of my colleagues. I don’t necessarily dress more formally, but I’m more “styled,” which reads as more formal.

    7. JessicaTate*

      I agree with this, based on observing my other half’s transition to a more business-casual (and smaller) work environment. He sticks with slacks, a button down, and a tie on most days. But if he has any kind of meeting with outside folks – going to a meeting or someone coming into their office – he goes back to the suit. It’s more dressed up than his colleagues are, but he’s comfortable and feels “in the zone.” Maybe that would work for you? Maybe tie or jacket, but not both?

      I agree with a commentor that said it might be easier for women, but I also realized that having my “uniform” on (going full suit) when I was doing certain parts of my work — meeting with a client, etc. — was important to me performing at my best. Even though it sometimes made (more casually dressed) colleagues make comments about it. It was like an armor that gave me an extra mental boost.

  12. Cafe Au Lait*

    OP#5, this is the perfect use of the “parking lot!” When you’re training and something is mentioned that’s not relevant to what’s going on right then, write it down in the “parking lot.” Later you can circle back to that concept when there’s time. It’s also really helpful whenever you’re training with Sue during her last week and then are handed over to Alex. Only Alex is shifted into another department and Jesse finishes your training.

    The parking lot is really helpful too when you’re given a portion of the job’s responsibilities and three months later it’s assumed you are familiar with them all. Then you can use the parking lot as a checklist to cover all the things mentioned that you’ll be handling.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Oh, this is a terrific idea! I’m working on a career change and hoping to find a job in my new field later this year, and I’m definitely saving the parking lot for reference.

  13. Lisa*

    LW3, I live in a very casual west coast city where the only men who ever wear suits and ties work in finance or law, and the lawyers only wear suits in court. Men who move, or travel here often, from more formal places often embrace the casual dress, but some of them are more like you and prefer something dressier. I’ve seen them come up with some creative options that might work as a middle ground. Dark dress jeans with very nice, dressy loafers, a crisp dress shirt with no tie, and a sport coat. Or chinos with a dress shirt and tie, maybe under a sweater vest or cardigan. It can look really spiffy and just make you appear to have better fashion sense than your colleagues wearing polo shirts. If you search on Pinterest for things like “tie sweater mens clothes” or “sport coats” or “mens business casual vest” you will see lots of interesting ideas, as well as tricks to make dress clothes look just a little less dressy, like rolled shirtsleeves. Possibly some of these options could be achieved by combining your existing wardrobe with a few new items, in a way that doesn’t flaunt the dress code but still makes you feel “dressed for work”. Good luck!

    1. Lilysparrow*

      Yes, there are a lot of ways to make business casual look sharp and sophisticated, or more upscale/expensive than your standard chinos and polo. That can help you come across as more senior and put-together.

      The downside is, it does take more thought and planning than slipping into a suit. But once you assemble a “uniform” you’re comfortable with, you won’t have to think about it on a daily basis anymore.

  14. Clay on my apron*

    OP1, your friend is being a bit of an ass, especially when it comes to not saying thank you.

    Your mistake (a common one) was to assume that you both had the same underlying assumptions about what is reasonable in this situation.

    Best thing to do is say “hey, I didn’t make this clear enough. I am able to help you on X stuff, with Y amount of notice. I can’t spend more than Z hours a week on this”. Or whatever you’re prepared to offer. If he doesn’t like it he must make another plan.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes, I get the gut response to ghost him, but laying out explicit expectations is a better move. You could spend a few hours on weekends reviewing stuff for him versus you will spend 2-5 every day creating his new marketing campaign.

  15. Clay on my apron*

    OP2, from the way you describe this it could have happened to anyone. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

  16. JKP*

    I feel bad for the scam victim. But it really seems like IT could have done something to prevent emails from coming through the company servers if the email is spoofing a company email. Most employees are not going to think scam when they get emails from their bosses’ known email address as opposed to a random gmail address. I guess it depends on how the email servers are set up and how people access email when off site. But this $1,000 might be cheap lesson that lets them tighten up security.

    1. NotIT*

      This was my thought as well, can someone who actually does IT weigh in on if that’s feasible? I have no notion of what they’re capable of :)

    2. Kella*

      My knowledge on this is limited, but it’s possible it’s not spoofing a company email, but just showing the person’s name. Like, When Jane Doe emails me, her email might be but when the email comes up, I just see that it’s from Jane Doe.

      I’ve seen a number of these scams, much less well done, but it always starts with an email from one of my best friends, except of course when I look closely, it’s not their email, and their email makes no sense. Sometimes gmail even recognizes the name and marks the emails as important!

      1. Justme, The OG*

        We’ve been getting a lot of them at my work. The from name will be someone important, and the email will be a Gmail or Yahoo meant to look like their work email.

        1. JKP*

          That makes more sense. I assumed the email was from the boss’s company email address, not a scammer’s gmail address.

          At a previous company, I didn’t have access to my company email at home, but needed to send something for work. So I sent it from my home email, but changed the from field to spoof my work email so any replies would go there instead. But my email didn’t go through because it had a company address but hadn’t been sent on company servers. So I wondered why this scam email wouldn’t be caught for the same reason. But it makes more sense if it only spoofed the name, but not the address.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      Someone in IT can correct me if I’m wrong but, I think IT does a lot to stem those emails…but if one virus or hacker gets through, then they have access to all the company email. And the hackers can easily get through by first accessing one of your vendors or clients with less vigourous IT, and getting access to their address book.

      Also worth remembering that if IT errs on too sensitive, they can start filtering out emails you want to get! (Like external emails from clients and vendors)

      1. Elle*

        “Also worth remembering that if IT errs on too sensitive, they can start filtering out emails you want to get!”

        When we got a new spam filter at a previous job in finance, it started filtering out all emails from one of the big 5 accountancy firms… We never did get to the bottom of it, and our (external) IT support claimed they couldn’t whitelist an entire domain, so we were stuck all individually whitelisting everyone we could think of at the local office.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is spot on – I no longer work in IT, but staying ahead of all these things is a big task. Hackers and scammers are always finding new ways to defeat filters and security walls, and it is absolutely a balance between catching everything you can and not catching business-related emails.

        One of our IS filters started pulling things from the federal court system to spam. I work for a law firm. That is a big problem.

    4. Sam Sepiol*

      The podcast Reply All phished some of their own staff using an email address rnedia (RNedia) rather than media (their email address is gimletmedia). Apparently almost indistinguishable.

    5. Birch*

      This is what annoys me so much about these types of scams, the email spoofing. I don’t know how much IT can really do about it, at least in my experience. We’ve gotten this exact scam from high level emails and even a very convincing variation on the “reset your password” one from IT themselves. So far they haven’t fixed the problem.

    6. Admin of Sys*

      Yeah, unfortunately it’s not that easy. There are some ways of locking down security as to who can send to mail servers, but then you end up blacklisting legit folks. You can require that emails appearing to be from certain accounts can only come from certain IPs, but then you restrict folks from emailing from their smart phone.
      And half the time, the mail isn’t even a solid ‘I faked an smtp server’ spoof, it’s just someone having filled in the ‘from’ and ‘reply-to’ field in an unrestricted mail service the hacker set up. We can stop folks from inside the company from pretending to be the boss, but keeping email from outside the company from doing the equivalent of putting a post-it note over their address that says ‘I’m the boss’ is a lot harder.

    7. js*

      The IT department can do everything possible, and these things can still get through if users have white listed addresses or domains that they aren’t supposed to.

      1. Eccentric Smurf*

        IT can filter most garbage out but it’s very difficult to stop everything without blocking good stuff too. One thing that can help is flagging emails that came from external sources. If a message says it came from Suzy Coworker but is flagged as coming from an external sender, you know it might not really be Suzy.

        OP#2 got targeted by a clever social engineering ploy. Social engineering has been around for a very long time (George C. Parker used it to ‘sell’ the Brooklyn bridge in the 1900s.) The best defense against that kind of thing is periodic cybersecurity training.

        Getting fooled by a clever social engineering scam isn’t the end of the world. I know some highly intelligent people who fell prey to similar scams. I’m glad OP#2’s company refused to let her pay for the mistake. The best course of action now is for them to put appropriate policies and cybersecurity training in place to minimize the risk of another incident.

    8. Barclay*

      At my employer, all external emails are marked as such. It wouldn’t help with most scams but does help prevent this particular type.

  17. Alianora*

    LW #3, every place I’ve worked has been pretty casual — I would say ranging from straight-up casual to midrange business casual. I actually work in the legal department of a university now, which is much more casual than a typical law firm. Many of the lawyers wear jeans and hoodies or sweaters most days. I’m young and at the beginning of my career, so I do prefer to dress up a little bit when I’m in a meeting or interacting with people other than my coworkers.

    My approach is basically what Alison suggested about a middle ground: to have some more formal pieces, but usually dress them down a bit. On me this means pencil skirts and cardigans worn with more casual shirts and shoes, occasionally a sheath dress. Then it doesn’t seem like such a deviation when I step it up and wear the same pencil skirt they see every day with a blouse and heels. I also go full casual sometimes, which I think helps me not to stand out.

    If I were a man I’d probably go with a button-down shirt and chinos like Alison said, and vary the shoes a bit. Probably no blazer except on presentation days, and absolutely no polos (just because I really dislike the look, not for any actual business reason.)

    Feeling comfortable in your clothes is paramount too. If you’re self-conscious, you’re going to look awkward even if they fit perfectly. Sometimes faculty members (who I usually dress up for, since they’re my department’s equivalent of clients) drop by unexpectedly. I’m dressed more casually than usual, but as long as I’m comfortable with my clothing and confident in my professional abilities, it doesn’t seem to affect their perception of me.

  18. SusanIvanova*

    I wouldn’t want to wear a polo; it makes it very likely that you can’t do any post-work shopping without someone thinking you work there.

      1. CMart*

        Most grocery stores? Target? Best Buy? The AT&T store? Hell, a lot of restaurants.

        Nicer pants + polo = sales associate and/or store manager.

        It’s a silly reason to avoid wearing polo shirts, but a legitimate one nevertheless in my experience.

      1. Phony Genius*

        I was in Target during the early part of this past Christmas shopping season. A customer in a red polo shirt kept getting stopped by other customers who wanted to ask him a question. I think one of them tried to report him to his “manager” because he wouldn’t help. It was kind of funny to watch (but not to him). He eventually figured out why this was happening, and left.

      2. bonkerballs*

        There are whole memes about people wearing red shirts and khakis and being mistaken for Target employees

      3. Jadelyn*

        There are whole threads I’ve seen on Twitter of people who accidentally wore a red shirt to Target and got mistaken for an employee.

        Which of course just leads me to the conclusion that if you need a job super bad, put on a red shirt, go to Target, and by the end of the day they’ll just assume you belong and you’ll be absorbed by the hive. ;)

    1. ArtK*

      I wear polo shirts all the time and I’ve *never* been mistaken for an employee. Yes, I’m sure that it happens occasionally, but I would never let that dictate my wardrobe. Besides, if it did happen, OP would have a good funny story to share.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah…it’s not the pollo that gets you confused for staff. I was wearing yoga pants and my reflective hiking jacket and was mistaken for an employee the last time it happened to me.

        Also it’s not that big of deal if you are misidentified as an employee, I just say “sorry, I don’t work here” if necessary.

    2. sb51*

      I think it might be more common for women to have this experience since polos are less common of a choice for women wearing business casual.

      1. Garrett*

        Yes I was going to say that too. I am a man and have never had this issue. Maybe if I was wearing a plain red polo in Target, yes. But most of my polos are striped or patterned, so I haven’t had the problem.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      I get mistaken for a store employee all the time and I never wear polos. It’s like I have “store employee, ask me questions” written on my face or something.

  19. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #2, these con games are easy to fall victim to. I’m glad your company is treating it right, shht happens!

    It’s worse than just scamming some cards from a business. I got a spoofed email pretending to be a worker asking me to update their direct deposit information. I only found out it was a spoof before anything was updated because I always give people forms personally as a way to stay connected with my coworkers that I don’t see much. But other companies may do business like that via email all the time and wouldn’t have. That scam is a lot more devastating because someone wakes up on payday with rent due and their money isn’t in their account!

    Be kind to yourself.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Well done :) ! That actually sounds super scary because yeah, I’m pretty sure an email would have been enough where I work.

  20. Jilly*

    OP 1 – I got this same email too except it was for iTunes gift cards. Luckily the fact that the email said it was gifts for clients clues me in that it was a scam because our clients are exclusively government agencies and it would be illegal for us to be giving these gifts or for them to receive them. A shame almost, I don’t have a company card and if I had bought the $2000 of gift cards requested at a grocery store using my Blue Cash Preferred card, I would have gotten 6% cash back.

  21. Kella*

    OP2- Ugh, I feel your pain. Falling for a scam feels so bad, especially if you consider yourself a smart, tech savvy person.

    I *almost* fell for a scam just a few days ago, I received a call with a recorded message from the social security office saying there had been some suspicious activity associated with my SSN. They left a message and I assumed it was a scam, but when I googled their phone number, the real Social Security website came up! I failed to notice the area code was wrong :-( I intended to call the real office, but then I received another call and answered and it was the same message, so I pressed one to talk to a person and it all went down hill.

    I was told there were a bunch of crimes associated with my name and SSN, like money laundering and selling cocaine, that I had 23 bank accounts open across the country. My SSN actually was compromised a number of years ago, so I was worried it was real. They asked for my SSN but thankfully I didn’t give it, I just confirmed the last four digits, and they accepted that. I was buying it all until the man told me that in order to protect my bank account during the temporary suspension of my SSN, I would need to go to a 7/11 or a Best buy and get a gift card and put money on it, and my brain went RED ALERT I’ve heard of this scam. He wanted me to stay on the phone and leave my house and buy the gift card *immediately* which I couldn’t have done anyways because my chronic illness decides when I do and don’t leave the house.

    I told him that that wasn’t going to be possible and I would need to call him back and he said that if I hung up, he’d sign a warrant for my arrest. I told him I didn’t believe he was legit, and he pointed to the fact that it was a 1-800 number and claimed only the government can have that. I told him again I didn’t believe him and I was going to hang up, he said that was my choice but then he was going to sign a warrant for my arrest, an officer would be at my home to arrest me shortly, my property and all my money would be seized, and I could enjoy my time in jail– and that’s when I hung up. It was super upsetting. I later called the real social security office and they said this scam has been going around a lot, it’s being investigated, and that the social security office cannot track stuff like they claimed, that’s all the credit bureau’s job.

    The thing I’m trying to tell myself that I hope you’ll be able to also is that these scams are designed to be as effective as possible. The good ones work because they play on basic human psychology, which means anyone can be affected, not just gullible people. Just as we strive to be really good at our jobs, it is their job to be really good at deceiving and tricking people. I’m so glad your company is treating you kindly after this incident.

    1. Airy*

      When I was working at a chain bookstore there was a ransomware scam that led to a lot of people coming in trying to buy a type of gift card that our chain actually no longer sold. Certain streaming sites were locking them out of their computers and putting up a message with the national police logo saying that child pornography had been detected on their computer and they had to buy one of these gift cards to pay a fine and get their computer unlocked. I don’t think any of them actually had been downloading CSA porn but they were very sheepish because they had been watching pirated movies and thought it would be safer just to pay the fine and not make a fuss. That was the psychological hook (that and good-quality jpegs of the police logo and our logo – people trust a familiar logo). It was lucky for them they actually couldn’t buy those cards from us. I think in the end we had a little stack of photocopied handouts at the register with instructions on how to really get your computer unlocked without paying the scammers, and I saw a few people go “Ohhhh…” when I pointed out that possession of that kind of material is such a serious offence there’s no way on earth if the police genuinely thought you had it on your computer they’d let you off with a fine.

      1. MsSolo*

        That appeared on a shared computer at a previous job after I logged in. It was a museum, and the majority of the staff just weren’t very IT savvy because they didn’t need to be (I once had to explain the existence of the right mouse button to a colleague). Most people really didn’t like the IT guy, but I got on with him fairly well, so I had no problem ringing him and telling him about the ludicrous virus. The relief in his voice that the first thing I’d done was call him was palpable.

        1. Airy*

          And then there are the people who ring up to say, “This is Windows security, your computer is infected,” whereupon I say, “I have a Mac and you need to get a better job,” and hang up.

    2. Rebecca*

      This is the same scam going around my area right now. It’s a little different than “you owe back taxes and we’re sending the sheriff to arrest you unless you pay us in iTunes gift cards”, but along the same lines. A pox and may the fleas of 1000 camels infest these scammers. And because I have no patience for them, when they threatened me with the whole arrest, jail, etc., I told them to bring it on. And reminded them I live in a rural area, so they may or may not go back the way they came in. Then they said I was threatening a law enforcement officer, so I said, OK, just add it to the charges, and remember, I know you’re coming. Never heard from that particular scam again.

      1. irene adler*

        I like you!

        Well done!

        This may sound low-tech, but asking lots of questions about the details of the supposed “issue” can trip up things to reveal that it’s a scam.

        Last week, my mother got the “grandma, I’m in jail” call. She instantly realized what was going on (pretty good for 86!) and just let the kid talk. He ended up not asking for anything.
        New twist: she received a second call, directly after the first call, from the “public defender”. This “public defender” started in to ask how grandma would be paying for grandson’s legal defense.

        She interrupted him to ask “which grandson are we talking about here?” .

        PD replied,” the one you just spoke to.”

        Her reply, “I see. Don’t you know his name? ”

        PD answered, “I handle lots of cases and cannot be expected to know names. You need to pay for his defense right now or he’s going to go to jail. You don’t want that, do you?”

        Her response, “Aw, let him rot!” and hung up.

        (One doesn’t pay the public defender until after the case is resolved- if at all. )

      2. Marthooh*

        Please tell me you used the phrase “dadburn varmints” at least once during this conversation.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My mind is screaming so loud.

      Everyone. Everywhere. NOBODY ACCEPTS GIFT CARDS TO PAY FOR A FINE!! And the police just show up at your door, they don’t ring and shake you down first. The government uses the mail not the phone and never WESTERN UNION anyone random either.

      It breaks my heart. These scammers target the elderly and prey on people who aren’t hyper aware of how the systems work.

    4. hbc*

      I had the similar threats about arrest and whatnot, though it was over missed jury duty. I had been selected in my state before so I thought it was really unlikely that I missed all the notifications, but I’d been out of the country a lot and maybe some stuff got lost in the shuffle? The guy used the name of a real judge at the courthouse where I’d have to appear.

      And then he said it would go a long way to make a wire payment to the courthouse to show…something. Sincere regret, I guess? But I still had a fear that I was going to tell a police officer to get bent, so I asked about calling the police station and getting routed to them. “Oh, just call the number on caller ID.” Hmm. Then he handed me over to “his supervisor” who tried to turn up the heat, and then I was done because 1) how likely is it that this Michigan enforcement agency has two people with Southern accents and 2) he mispronounced “Huron.” I ended up telling him that yeah, my face sure would be red when they came to arrest me that night, and hung up on him.

  22. Rich*

    OP 2. For what it’s worth, what happened to you is an extremely common story. I’ve worked in information security for ages, and, particularly in the last few years, scams such as that are rampant and successful. Companies with big technical and security training budgets that the use to try to prevent exactly what happened to you still get hit multiple times a year. A big part of why everyone was so understanding may well be that you weren’t the only one to do it — and maybe not even the only one to do it because of that scammer that day.

    On the plus side, you now know the lesson better than just about anyone at your company. It’s a tough one to learn, but the scammers are clever. Be vigilant, but don’t beat yourself up.

  23. Marion Ravenwood*

    OP #2: we had a similar email (purporting to come from our CEO) in my old job that a bunch of people across the organisation received. The only way we twigged was that the writing style was completely different to hers and that her surname (spelt wrong) was in the body of the email, which she normally wouldn’t do. Luckily we caught it before anyone did anything but it just goes to show how common these things are! So please don’t beat yourself up about it.

    OP #3: I agree with the suggestion of making small changes. Two jobs ago, my husband went from a ‘suits every day’ role to something much more casual. His approach was to do it gradually – so his work shirts with dark jeans or chinos and nice shoes and a suit jacket, or suit trousers and a more casual shirt and jumper or jacket. Over the last four years, he’s gone from suits every day to collared shirts (many of which are from his old job) under a jumper, with jeans and brogues and no tie. So it can be done!

  24. Not An Intern Any More*

    LW#2, I’m pretty sure that most credit card companies, if not all of them, have some sort of a purchase guarantee that ensures that the purchaser is not liable for falling victim to a scam or to an unauthorized purchase. Your company has probably already contacted the credit card company and gotten credited for the purchase. The bright side for you is likely that, since you are on heightened alert, you won’t fall for this again. Your company might also use this as an opportunity to add some additional controls to their purchasing procedures.

    1. Lurker bee*

      I was a personal, not corporate victim of this scam. My credit card company while awesome, could do nothing, because I did intentionally purchase the gift cards, and the store where I purchased them is entitled to payment. Filed a police report, too.

    2. Live & Learn*

      Surprisingly most don’t. They will cover fraudulent charges (charges you didn’t authorize) but not charges you authorized for reasons that turn out to be a scam. My husband works for a financial institution and this comes up all the time and he wishes he could help but he can’t.

  25. Volunteer Enforcer*

    OP 4 I’ve had all ends of the scale often. Last week I asked my boss something I should definitely know a year in, no biggie. Come across as confident but slightly apologetic and you’ll be fine. No apology needed the shorter the time span is.

  26. PX*

    OP3: Lots of advice here on how you can dress down but still look smart. I personally really like the look of nice separates put together. So nice slacks or chinos with a shirt and sweater. Perhaps the suit trousers with a more casual shirt (eg one with a print vs single colour). Nice dark jeans, a shirt and suede brogues – all very put together, but still not a suit.

    And in my experience, even in a casual office, dressing up a bit on days when clients are coming in should not be seen as too out of place, so perhaps until you get used to your new wardrobe, you can have a bit of compromise by wearing (partial) suits only on those days?

    OP4: This is so normal. Its not you! If its a process you’ve never actually needed to use or know before other than a brief mention once in years, no one will expect you to magically know how to do it or what it is. My go to phrase for things like that is: “Actually, I’ve always heard people mention the RF reports, but I dont know what they are/I’ve never had to do one. What are they actually?/How do they work?”

    1. Kiki*

      Another great investment is tailoring. A lot of people don’t think to get more casual clothes tailored, but it can make a huge difference in helping you look and feel polished.

      You can also use accessories to elevate your look. Wear a stylish watch, have a good belt and nice dress shoes. Anything that makes you look less like you’re heading straight to hr golf course.

  27. Yida Mala*

    Response to LW3:
    As a suit-wearer (albeit in more casual mode) in a non-suit-wearing environment, I’d like to suggest the following, although I’m aware that it may not completely deal with the LW’s discomfort:

    I think it’s possible to bridge the suit-casual divide.
    The key will probably be the tie and cufflinks. (And non-striped suits so that the trousers look OK alone without the jacket)
    Perhaps keep a tie or two at work. Switch to button-cuff shirts if the existing shirts can’t be buttoned – or just roll the sleeves up to mid-forearm? If difficult to do that then use subtle cufflinks such as elastic knots rather than metal ones.

    The point is to dump the jacket as soon as you arrive (most days, until you leave). I reckon that for general work you’ll feel more comfortable/productive in suit trousers and dress shirt, even without tie and jacket, than you do in business casual.

    For the occasional meeting which others do in business casual, add a tie, or the jacket, or both if you really need it.
    Maybe this would better be described as “casual business” as opposed to chinos+polo “business casual” but it will probably bring you adequately into the ballpark…

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Agreed! I’ve worked with a lot of men who wear suits to work, but I never see them in the jacket! That seems to meld appropriately enough with everyone else in business casual. “Casual business” is just the right phrase!

  28. I heart Paul Buchman.*

    LW3, you mention that you have moved to a different area, is it possible that the clientele is different as well? Often business dress (even for professionals) is targeted just slightly above the dress of the average client. A lawyer in a city centre servicing professionals would need a higher standard of dress than one in the suburbs working with blue collar folk. Getting the dress code ‘wrong’ can impact rapport and make interviews uncomfortable for clients. I wouldn’t assume your employers are setting dress codes on a whim.

  29. Wakeens Teapots LTD*


    Falling for scams is a cost of doing business, like bad debt, you just don’t want it to cost TOO much. $1K is cheap.

    I am the savviest of savvy, but we are business to business ecommerce on the interwebs which means we are inundated with purchase scams, including fraudulent CCs that pass and subsequently get charged back to us. What’re you gonna do? We are very good but once in a while we get taken.

    The absolute worst was a few years back – we got taken for $5k. I actually had a hand in it :( super busy season, good scam, missed a flag that I should have spotted, and out $5k. The WORST PART? The customer order file was never flagged and the next year, one of our reps followed up for a repeat order and WE GOT TAKEN AGAIN FOR $5K.

    Swear to god. So there were some process changes after that. :(

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      We got scammed for very little on a scam purchase as well. They ordered 3 times, the same junky little clearance item and the shipping address was not real, everything came back eventually. It was so strange and I was grateful it was all under $50. I think they were test driving the stolen card.

      1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        Ours are resale value goods like flash drives. We don’t sell blanks but the scammer attempt to order with a generic enough imprint, all about converting to cash for our scammers.

        $1000+ orders on company cc’s happen many times a day so you need a bit of a sharp eye to go “nope, this one doesn’t look right, I don’t care if the cc cleared or not”. Nevertheless, we are really good at catching them but not this time. Times 2. That was amazing having to explain to our company controller how we solicited a repeat order from a scammer. O.o

        (I found the goods on sale online btw – some tech clearance resale site or something, which made it more frustrating and I wish I hadn’t looked for them.)

  30. Jack V*

    OP1. You offered to help out, he wanted way more help than it’s reasonable to give (both in, total amount, and in responding urgently, and in doing things while you’re at work). Fortunately, it sounds like you haven’t formally accepted any responsibility. Brace yourself and just say something like, you want to help but you don’t have time for most of that. Eager non-profits have to cope with that sort of thing all the time. It’s sad if he can’t do everything he hoped, but you didn’t volunteer to help him full time because you couldn’t, and you still can’t.

    OP2. Ouch. That is incredibly embarrassing. But it happens. I think I would have fallen for that one too, it’s just so simple :( Set a good example: say, anyone can fall for a scam like that one (even if some are lots more obvious). Suck up the embarrassment. Your company is doing exactly the right thing, don’t do yourself down. Ask yourself if there’s anything more you could sensibly do better (e.g. any time ANYONE asks you to spend money on ANYTHING ask yourself if it could be a scam) but you won’t become perfect.

    OP3. If you did just wear a suit, would people mind? Or just know you as the unusually professional one? Can you ask someone? Or have something smarter you can change into for client meetings?

    OP4. This is so so me. The good news is, this is how everyone works, some people are just more embarrassed by it than others. I worked out a form of phrasing that worked for me, something like “By the way, I thought I got RF but I realise no-one ever actually explained the basics to me, what’s the story?” Sometimes it’s a new name for something you already know. Sometimes you need the explanation. Sometimes there’s a guide someone no-one mentioned. Companies SUCK at this sort of information-disseminating, mostly people learn from their coworkers to a greater or lesser extent. Don’t be put off from asking because you’re embarrassed or don’t want to take up people’s time. Get into the habit of asking people when you’re hanging around in the kitchen or similar.

    1. Loux in Canada*

      Regarding OP3, where I work, the dress code is technically business casual, but people wear jeans and hoodies every day (myself included!). There are people who dress up nicely in business casual or even suits. No one really thinks anything of it.

  31. Loot*

    #2: If you want to give back to your company, do so by coming up with a good policy that will prevent something similar from ever happening again. (Since from the scammer’s point of view, your company has fallen for their scam once, which means that they’ll try to scam you again. And it’s very likely your company will become targetted by other, similar scams as well.)

    As an example: make it a policy to send a new email (so *no* pressing reply for the email, it must be a whole brand new email) or call the person asking the favor before doing it. A sort of 2-step authorization, if you will.

    You can even frame this to your higher-ups as “I feel very competent when it comes to computers, and that I fell for this just shows how vulnerable we are to this sort of scam.”

    #1: if you still want to help him, frame it as a misunderstanding/miscommunication. “I realized I wasn’t being as clear as I should have been when I agreed to help you. When I said I’d help as long as it didn’t impact my work, I meant that I will not be able to help during my work hours at all.”

  32. Rez123*

    I think the key in #3 is that the LW feels like the clients take him less seriously. Do they? Have they acted differently? Have they said something? Or is it just that you think that way?

    Where I’m from all this dress code talk is very foreign. Dress codes are not such a big deal and unless uniforms are involved the company policies doesn’t mention anything. In my previous work some people always wore a suit and some had jeans and a polo shirt. Even in the same level.

    1. ArtK*

      Another thought is that the clientele for the more casual company is different than he had for the more formal one. I wouldn’t be surprised that the clients for the new place are more casual themselves, so it seems like they aren’t taking him as seriously.

      1. Rez123*

        I was thinking the question “treat differently” comparing suit day or casual day in the same company. I doubt the company would have clients if they were not happy with the casual clothing. I’m sure there are companies to choose from.

  33. rudster*

    I am curious as to the mechanics of spoofing the exec’s email. Of course the text of the mailto link can be completely different from the actual address, but you should able to see where it’s actually going when you click reply. Probably they provided a webmail or domain that sounded similar to the real one and LW just didn’t notice.
    Scammers sure have been getting more sophisticated. I am a freelance translator, and we get scam emails all the time, mostly of the overpayment variety. One recent one was particularly ingenious – they sent a fake a job notice ostensibly from a real mid-sized company with a moderately recognizable name, pretending to be real persons at the company, promising annual contracts for full-time editing work, all you had to do undergo a “job interview” on Google Hangouts. The scam part comes in when you respond and send in personal info to “verify your identity” and they try to get you pay for “software” and “training”. The English in the email wasn’t flawless, but miles above the garden-variety Nigerian prince emails. And ingeniously, the money offered was just good enough to get a recent grad or struggling freelancer to bite, but not so extravagant that a successful freelancer would leave most of their clients behind to work somewhere else full-time. It didn’t even scream “scam” to me at first glance, just rather odd altogether, so I ignored it.

    1. anon with no name because I can't think of one to stick with.....*

      Honestly I think some (many?) people get caught because they don’t look carefully enough at where the email is coming from – they just see the name and a demand from the boss and jump to it without thinking it through … We have a problem with this at my company right now – several people are getting emails supposedly from the Executive Director and our IT guy is trying his best to find and block the domains they’re coming from but the emails keep getting though. Fortunately, I think at this point we all know the ED isn’t going to be asking what we’re doing/wanting us to go do something/threatening us if we don’t jump to it right now! However when it first started happening one of the newer employees unfortunately started to fall for it but she also got the email on her phone and on the phone app for our work email it’s harder to see the full email address… (I don’t think she got as far as to spend money but something happened before it was realized what was going on).

    2. mreasy*

      You can spoof an actual email address as well. We’ve had this happen to us recently – a former colleague’s actual email address is throwing spam to our clients. So it’s not always a matter of checking the email address carefully.

    3. gecko*

      It’s possible the victims just glide over the gobbledegook email address and only look at the name/content of the email, it’s possible that the exec was phished and the emails really were coming from their hacked address, it’s possible the address was spoofed, it’s possible the mock domain name of the address was very very similar (as someone said above, for instance, gimletrnedia instead of gimletmedia).

      It’s also possible that the email client helped by obscuring the address–gmail for instance will pop in a name instead of displaying an address, if it’s available.

    4. Cassandra*

      Office 365/Outlook on desktop/laptop can be a giant problem here. When you reply to a message, you don’t even SEE the email address you’re replying to — just the display name.

      Terrible security decision, presumably in the name of improved usability.

      A lot of these spearphishes (appear to) come from a GMail account, because GMail is so common and professionally accepted that people tend not to think twice about it.

    5. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

      One way it works is that people see what we expect to see: if you know my address is, and get a message claiming to be from “The Gollux” but with the reply-to address or, you might well click “reply” even if your email client wasn’t “helpfully” hiding the reply-to address.

      Or they might register a gmail address that’s one character off from the name they’re faking–are you sure of how many L’s your friend Michelle has in her name, that Steven in your accounting department doesn’t spell his name with a ph, and so on?

  34. Carlie*

    OP2 – that one has run through our entire system twice in the last year, because it is so easy to fall for! The scammers are getting a lot better at crafting emails that seem legit. This year’s even had a variant asking people to text them, so the scammers got a bunch of cell phone numbers to sell too. Don’t sweat it.

  35. Rebecca*

    OP#2 – these scams are incredibly common and well written. We get things like this regularly at work, until the IT department quashes yet another version. It’s gotten so bad that the head of IT had to send out an email saying, yes, this is Jane, and really, the survey we want you to fill out is legit – please do it! Turns out we all thought our own IT Department’s survey was a scam. So I guess we’re appropriately cautious? In the world of scams, this was a relatively inexpensive lesson.

    1. Beaded Librarian*

      That happened at my job too. But in our case the email seemed REALLY scammy and we had no warning until after a bunch of people flagged it as spam.

      It was for an anti scam training course but since we didn’t know we were supposed to do it we thought scam because it was a brief email that wasn’t completely clear it was an anti scam company, basically do this training (and frankly the name of the company gave me pause) and a link.

      So the stuff they warn you about.

    2. londonedit*

      My local half-marathon had something like this happen – they hired a new timing company to oversee the race, and unbeknownst to the race organisers, everyone who had already bought a race entry got an email from a (seemingly) totally random company saying ‘Please give us all your details’. It was only things like name, address, date of birth etc, not bank details, but they had to field tons of emails from people asking if it was legit/warning them that they’d apparently been hacked, and they had to announce on social media that it WAS a legitimate request and they DID need people to confirm their race entry details with the new timing company.

    3. BadWolf*

      Our GDPR training email looked totally spammy. It was an odd font and formatting, not directly from our company, clicking on links, had a sense of urgency, assured us it was NOT spam.

      A separate follow up note and announcement on slack had to be made that it was legit.

  36. Madame Secretary*

    LW3- Legal Secretary here. In my office, we have busines casual dress every day. If an attorney has court, he or she is of course expected to dress in suits. Otherwise, then men wear button down shirts with khakis or other non denim pants with a blazer jacket or nice sweater. Polos are for summer Fridays only. Joseph A. Banks and similar stores can help you design outfits that will help you be business casual while still looking very polished. There are a lot of choices between being suited up and being ready for a round of golf. Also, on behalf od your staff, please don’t ruin this perk for them. It does boost morale. We love it.

    1. Sartorial wizard*

      Also, on behalf od your staff, please don’t ruin this perk for them. It does boost morale. We love it.

      I don’t think the staff should be deciding how an attorney dresses. If the law firm has decided that a more casual look is appropriate for staff, continue with that, but how LW3 dresses is his decision.

  37. xms967*

    LW2: Speaking as a security engineer, your company is handling this well, and there is no shame in falling for one of these scams. Scammers have been getting more clever over the years, and no one, not even security folk, has a perfect 100% success rate of never falling for things. (Or, saaay, mis-clicking a thing, thus getting a virus on one’s computer. >.> ) It happens! I can understand where it’d be embarrassing, but it is absolutely fine.

  38. CTT*

    OP3, I can’t tell from your letter if you’ve been told you have to dress casually for client visits, but if that’s the case, I think you can make the argument that a client visit is the equivalent of going to court. I’m in a transactional practice so people tend to be more casual because no one is going to court, but everyone will dress more formally if a client is coming in because, like going to court, that is the outward-facing part of the business.

  39. Delta Delta*

    #3 – This is such an interesting question. I’m a llama, and I’ve spent most of my career in a portion of the profession where I don’t have to dress super-formal all the time. I am in and out of court a lot, and I always dress appropriately for court (suit or other suitable attire), but when I am not in court I dial it back. I worked for a firm for a while that skewed casual, and some clients voiced their appreciation for that. I had a client once tell me that I didn’t seem stuffy or like I thought I was better than him. I think I was wearing dark jeans and a sweater when we met. However, I worked with some people who I felt took it too far. They routinely wore shorts or yoga pants around the office. I thought that gave an overall sloppy look to the office. It got to the point where I would schedule client meetings off site because I knew Fergus would be wearing a dirty t-shirt or Lucinda would be wearing her running shorts. I didn’t want to complain and take that away from them, but it did make the firm seem sort of jokey.

    all this to say that #3 now is in a place where the dress code is different than in the old firm, and adjustments can be a little tough. OP probably also has a closet full of suits and would like to keep wearing the clothes he owns (I got the sense OP is a he). I like the suggestions the other commenters have made to figure out subtle ways to dial back the formality and find a nice middle ground. I am married to a llama, who routinely wears button down Oxford shirts, dark jeans, and dress shoes for work. That might be worth a try on a Friday to see how OP feels about it.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      Not to distract from your advice above, but I’m really enjoying the visual of two lawyer llamas in varying degrees of business attire.

      1. Kat in VA*

        I just spent a very entertaining few moments imagining Business Casual Llama, Smart Casual Llama, Business Llama, and Business Formal For Court Llama. The footwear was especially fun. (LLAMA IN SHOOTIES! LLAMA IN ANKLE BOOTS!)

  40. Beth Jacobs*

    OP#3: This is a “know your office thing” but when I worked at a law firm, we were business casual. I personally met with clients very rarely, as a lot of them were international. A lot of us kept a change of clothes at the office and changed into business formal on the rare occasion of meeting clients. This is something that might work for you, provided you wouldn’t be doing it everyday.

  41. Jessen*

    OP #3, can I also put in a plug for doing some research to make sure everything is well fitting? I know I found that to be important when going to more casual clothes – it’s just so much easier to look and feel mature and put together when everything fits right. I was making the mistake of wearing stuff that was the “right size” but didn’t really fit, such as pants that fit my hips but were too baggy in the leg or tops that had been sized up over my chest but had the shoulder set too wide. And it really did make me look a lot younger in a way that clothes that were more the right shape don’t.

  42. Alton*

    #2: I find that it can be harder to spot or respond to scams at work sometimes because assisting people can be part of our jobs. If you get a strange e-mail from your boss, ignoring it may not be an option and questioning it might feel unprofessional. I think it can take practice to recognize warning signs and develop a script for what to do. IT can help people with that by both spreading the word about popular scams and normalizing the idea of questioning stuff.

    At my job, I get spam phone calls sometimes from people trying to sell us toner (or maybe just scam us out of money) by pretending to be from our IT department or a company we have a contract with. It was hard for me at first because answering the phone is part of my job and I didn’t want to be rude. I also didn’t realize at first that calls like these are a thing, and the first time it happened, I nearly fell for it.

  43. nnn*

    For #4, if you’re uncomfortable saying you didn’t learn about the RF reports, you could phrase it in a way that suggests you don’t remember it. “Remind me how do do the RF reports?” “Can you refresh me on the RF reports? It’s been a while”. Same tone and delivery as if you don’t remember how to fill out the overtime form because it’s been month since you’ve done overtime.

    1. MLB*

      I’m not sure that would work. If someone tells me to remind them how to do something, I’m going to skim over the instructions. But if they’ve never been taught how to do something, I’m going to take my time and make sure they get it. I think OP is making this into a way bigger deal than it actually is. A simple, “I realized that I’ve never been trained on the RF reports. Can we set up a time to go over them?” If someone came to me with that request, I’d be the one apologizing for forgetting to train them, rather than OP feeling like the one needing to apologize.

  44. Bookwormish51*

    OP2–our law office switched to casual on some days, but, like you, some of the lawyers don’t like it. They either still wear their suits and just say ‘I feel more comfortable ‘ or take off the tie and open a couple collar buttons. If you keep ties at work, you can put them on if you are seeing or Skyping with a client. You can also wear the jacket in but remove it for part of the day. And just say you got used to it at your old form. Probably people will tease you for a week and then get over it.

  45. Czhorat*


    I’m reminded by a story Cory Doctorow wrote about how he fell for a fishing attack against his Twitter account. Doctorow is a science fiction writer, activist for digital privacy rights and similar issues, and technology journalist. In other words, he’s a man who absolutely knows better and yet even he suffered a momentary lapse in attention and slipped into a trap.

    In other words, it happens. The attacks are very frequent, and all it takes is one moment for one person to let their guard down and the criminals win. Be vigilant, but don’t expect more from yourself than is reasonable.

    1. London Calling*

      So, so easy. I have a Hotmail account and I received an email from Microsoft saying we have a problem with your account, we need to check your details. It had been a long day, I was tired and distracted – it was only as I was hovering the mouse over the address that I noticed it came from a GMail account….

      1. Czhorat*

        See here:

        Basically it was a chain of unlikely events (new phone with the password not saved into it, a distraction, the URL truncated in the small display) that lead him to fall for it.

        The landscape has changed in the past 8 years, but the overall point remains: if a LOT of scams are out there one will eventually hit someone at the right level of inattentiveness and catch them. We can’t all be 100% vigilant all the time.

  46. LQ*

    #3 something that helps with this, especially the part about the feeling productive, at least for me, is never let your clothes drift into another realm.

    If the clothing level you wear casually in your life and the clothing level you wear at work match, it seems easy to let them drift. Oh these jeans for going out with friends I’m now going to wear to work. Nope.

    Work clothes and weekend clothes and never the twain shall meet. A suit is just a uniform, and a uniform helps you have the right mindset for accomplishing the work. Once you mix your uniform with the rest of your clothes it definitely has an impact on your mindset. Even if it’s just grey/charcoal is for work and black/blue is for play separating them will help a lot.

    1. Friday snow here*

      Really? The majority of my clothes do double duty. Black sweater I’m currently wearing at work can be for work or dinner with my friends.

      But, I also pick and choose to work at companies with a “business casual that sometimes leans towards casual” environment. My first job out of college, some of my colleagues wore hoodies to work and nobody said that it was unacceptable. Of course, the majority of the people were young.

      1. LQ*

        Oh all my Not Work Clothes I could absolutely wear to work. They are very similar. That is the problem. That’s why having Not Work Clothes and Work Clothes is helpful. When I wear these clothes I have to think and behave as if I am at work, when I wear these clothes I don’t. Taking my badge off when I leave the building, changing out of Work Clothes at home, etc.

        One of the benefits of a suit or a work uniform is when you are wearing the work uniform you are now in work mode. Letting them get mushy means when you are home your brain my switch over to work mode, or at work your brain my get into home mode. If home mode is feet up, relaxed and I’m going to work to try to be productive and having hard time shifting out? Changing the environment can help a lot. It’s sort of like having the work email going to your personal phone. Even if you never get the messages you’re checking, it’s lurking, it’s creating a stress hum, it may be very very very quiet. But if you stack up enough stress hums you have a cacophony.

        I might as well play mind games on myself since other people are doing it too but at least I’m doing it for good and not evil. I don’t want to lie to myself and say I’m immune to mind games because that’s just a mind game that sets me up for being played.

      2. LawBee*

        I think it’s more having a mental divide between “these are my casual clothes that I goof off while wearing” and “these are my work clothes that help me be laser focused on what I’m doing”, and less on having a wardrobe that can, as the “ladies magazines” say, go from office-wear to dinner-wear. We are super casual in my office (one of the partners regularly shows up in his biking gear, the horror) so theoretically I could come to work in my softest lounge pants and oversized sweater. I don’t, because those are “home clothes” and when I put the on, my brain immediately disengages.

  47. Cassandra*

    OP2, I was thinking someone would have said this already, but since no one has:

    YOU DID THE RIGHT THING. Really. I mean it.

    “The right thing” in this case is not “refusing to fall for a spear-phishing attempt.” That’s too high a bar for anybody. You are busy, and worse yet, the ask was reasonable for your workplace. (Plus, anti-phishing training mostly doesn’t work. Sorry. The research has been done on this one.)

    “The right thing” was “going to IT/security and management as soon as you figured out it was a phish.” That’s not easy for people to do — some will even shame-spiral and try to keep it to themselves — but you did, and by doing so you helped everybody get a handle on the situation. (Which, as noted above, could have been a lot worse — instead of a gift-card scam, it could have been a link to a website containing an attack on your computer, through which the attackers might nibble away at your employer’s IT infrastructure.)

    Your employer is behaving exactly as they should to you. They need fast reporting of potential and actual security problems more than ANYTHING, and (as also noted by another commenter above), if they’re punitive toward you they won’t get that from anyone. So if it makes you feel better, please realize that your employer isn’t writing off the gift cards as any sort of favor to you — it’s a strategic security decision! Not least because you did the right thing!

    1. gecko*

      This is such a good point. It’s totally reasonable, OP, that you feel like a fool–there’s not only a financial cost to being scammed, there’s an emotional cost. But I agree with Cassandra on all points. You so completely did the right thing.

      “Not being scammed” isn’t a “right thing” to do; it’s a nice state of being, but if a scam gets far enough through a system of security to you, and it chances to be applicable to your work and it chances to catch you when you’re paying attention to something else, it’s likely to catch ya. It’s horrible to be a victim, but you were, and don’t blame yourself for it.

      1. londonedit*

        Totally. The comments above prove that just about everyone has at least one ‘got scammed/nearly got scammed’ story. The scammers keep doing it because enough people still fall for them to make it worth their while! OP definitely did the right thing – admit to the mistake, apologise, make it clear that you’ve learned from it, and move on.

  48. annakarina1*

    OP2: Your story just came in at great timing, as I just got a scam email in my work email, claiming to be from the president of my company and needing “my assistance immediately” and to “buy gift cards.” I should have found it suspect from the first email, as it was from a Gmail account instead of his work email, but the second email confirmed that it was a fake. I let my co-worker know and forwarded it to one of the heads of the company to let him know about this.

    So although I am sorry that this happened to you, I’m glad that your company is understanding, and you bringing this to public attention helped me to avoid the same scam. Thank you very much.

    1. The Ginger Ginger*

      I got this same scam attempt on Tuesday! The email looked like it came from our CEO (which, it would be fairly unusual for him to reach out to me), but the domain was wonky. The tone and brevity didn’t make the phrasing seem too weird, so if I hadn’t fully opened the email and just viewed it from the preview instead, I really might have missed the weirdness. I nearly responded as it was because it was the “CEO” writing in an urgent tone, but luckily noticed the weird domain in time.

      All that to say, this is probably the best phishing attempt I’ve ever received, OP2. It was well written (and spelled right) and the display name and tone were very convincing. I don’t blame you for initially not noticing. You did the right thing by reporting as soon as you figured it out. And now you’re more attuned to this new type of scam.

  49. CoveredInBees*

    OP3, I went through a similar problem except I simply didn’t have any “business casual” clothes and wasn’t in a place to get a whole new wardrobe. I’d suggest getting a few pieces from places like JCrew or Banana Republic to mix in. Some sweaters that could go with dress pants and shirts, maybe.

    I also feel you on having to dress up to be taken more seriously. I was a woman in a heavily macho area and usually the youngest in the courtroom by a noticeable amount. It’s tough. It got easier the longer I was there (like 6 months, not multiple years) and people got to know me more. Also, I adapted to the local office culture more. While I’m obviously not in the meetings with your clients, I wonder if there’s also a subtle culture shift. Big, formal firms put a lot of effort into being “taken very seriously” that I have seen far less in smaller, suburban firms.

  50. Blue*

    OP4 – You could also use it more General to Point out more documentation – whether an Intranet or just a two-page paper document in a file Folder, it’s always good to have as many procedures, Tasks etc. written down as detailed as possible, so that if an employee gets hit by the proverbial truck, somebody else can take over their Tasks with Minimum Problems.
    A new employee joining the Company is the best way to get all the detailed questions down, so you could prepare an instruction from your own notes and Show it to your Manager, as first Version, to be added to if more questions appear (or the odd exception that only Pops up once a year, and nobody remembers where the info is written down).

  51. MLB*

    #1 – Sounds like you never had a discussion about what you helping out really means. He made the assumption that you would help him always and immediately, and you need to set clear boundaries. Tell him what you’re willing to do for him, and be 100% clear so there’s no room for interpretation. And if you don’t want to help him anymore, just tell him so, and let him know why. He’s taking advantage of your relationship because you’re letting him.

  52. AMT*

    LW3: Don’t read the rest of this comment if you’re 100% sure you’re a stylish dude, but—ayou sure the casualness of the clothing (and not the fit or the cut, for example) is the problem? I always involuntarily see people as more competent when their clothes are up-to-date, well-cared-for, accessorized properly, and well-fitting. I had a coworker who dressed “impeccably” every day—but he constantly wore suit vests without jackets (!) that looked like they belonged to a high school orchestra conductor, and the overall feel was that his sense of style had halted in the mid-nineties. They were also way too formal for the setting, which strangely made him look *less* put together. There are polos, cardigans, chinos, and other casual clothes out there that will make you look professional, but you might need a friend with a good eye for quality and fit to find them.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      Yes, fit makes such a difference! While men’s clothing style tend to change less and more slowly than women’s (especially once you’ve hit adulthood) , the cut makes a difference. Collar shapes and proportions are a great example of this. Same shirt, different look.

      1. AMT*

        Exactly. I had a big problem with this until I had a good job and started buying my clothes at places other than discount stores. I knew to some extent that certain things I owned looked cheap or outdated or “off,” but I couldn’t pinpoint why until I started shopping around and learned to see the difference in things I didn’t think about before, like fabric texture and lapel styles.

  53. Small fries*

    OP2, these things happen! Please google the Pathe scam to see the high stakes version and to feel better about your own situation.

    For those who don’t want to google, the TLDR is that a branch of a huge cinema group lost over *$21 million* (E19 million) after the branch CEO received a spoofed email supposedly from the main CEO asking for money to be transferred to Dubai for an acquisition. They were asked to not talk about it with *anyone* so it wouldn’t get leaked. It took *4* transfers before they stopped and actually checked in with someone else (and even then, it was just “Strange, is it not?”).

  54. Overeducated*

    OP #4: This happens a lot in my job, and I think it’s because when you’re being trained in a new complex system, you can’t remember every detail until you have enough of an understanding of the larger system to mentally envision where the details fit in. For me, I have to get trained on everything to get the big picture, and then go back and look at notes, ask questions, and look up documentation to understand all the pieces of the puzzle afterward. Sometimes I also have to actually DO the thing, not just see it done or be trained on it, to get a sense of what I didn’t thoroughly understand the first time. If you think about how people learn in school, practice and repetition are a huge part of almost every class for a reason. As long as your training requests and questions aren’t taking away from other people’s work, generally it’s ok to ask for help.

  55. TGIF*

    LW #2 – This scam was going around my office and I very nearly fell for it! The email “came” from the owner of my company, who often asks odd tasks of me, saying he was in a meeting and could I email him my cell phone number (which is not in my Outlook, which is the company norm) so he could text me his request. I thought it was odd he wanted to text me but email backed my phone number.

    The text that was sent asked about the gift cards for clients and that’s when I got suspicious, only because at the time he was dealing with a family emergency so, while he might have been tied up in meetings regarding the emergency, I knew he wouldn’t be thinking about client gifts at this point in time. I double checked the email and realized it was a spam email. I called the help desk and they said I was the fourth call that afternoon about the email scam and I wasn’t the only one to go so far as to send my phone number. Luckily no one actually did the gifts cards, and help desk sent out a warning email. I was scared about the scammers having my phone number but they only sent me one follow up text asking if I could help, and then never again when I didn’t respond.

    So don’t feel too bad, I almost fell for it too! And on a different scam, I had to tell a higher up not to open a fake DropBox link that was sent to them, because they thought it was real, but I could tell it was a scam by the email address.

  56. Smithy*

    LW1: As good a cause at this former coworker’s nonprofit may be, it can also be very chaotic, struggling to survive, poorly run and every other worrisome trait that you can find in any professional setting. So if the situation is that problematic, then it really will fall to your shoulders to outline what you are and are not willing to do.

    I’m in fundraising and a former colleague went onto become the Development Director if local nonprofit that had been around for over twenty years. Every two weeks they struggled to have enough money in their accounts for payroll. Anytime we talked about it, it raised my blood pressure – I have no clue how he lasted as long as he did there.

    This isn’t to say that there aren’t other types of workplaces that have these struggles – but often with nonprofits the pressure of the mission can be used to justify other chaos. Just because the OP is saying no, they’re saying no to volunteer requests for work they can’t manage – they’re not saying no to sick children, abused animals, or whatever other very worthy mission the organization is supporting.

  57. Linzava*

    I absolutely would have fallen for this, and I’m very tech savvy, and my SO of 10 years is an information security engineer.

    Basically, I’m saying, as a tech savvy person who’s lived in internet security land for a long time, under the same circumstances you were under, I would have done the exact same thing. You have nothing to feel embarrassed about, that’s is a very good scam. This is an opportunity for your company to close those security loopholes.

  58. Colleen*

    #2 – Oh, as soon as I saw the headline I knew exactly which scam this would be. My organization recently had that one come through (with a couple of people almost falling for it) as did my fiance’s. I think we’ve gotten to a point where we expect scammers to be so incredibly inept (i.e. Nigerian prince, emails riddled with spelling errors, etc.) that when one that is half-way plausible comes out it makes even the most tech savvy of us susceptible. Don’t be too hard on yourself, just learn from it. A few years back right after I had finished grad school I was so desperate for a job (any job!) that I fell further for a scam than I would like to admit. Thankfully, I didn’t lose money in it, but I felt pretty dumb for not seeing it sooner. You’re not the first to fall for a scam, and you won’t be the last, unfortunately.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      I fell for a scam job too! I went in for an interview that was supposed to be for an office assistant. I was slightly sketched out by the first interview but the lady was really nice and it was nothing major. So I get a phone call saying Oh well we filled that position but we have a second position we’d like to talk to you about. Okay fine. Go in and they start talking to me about being a “chat host” for an “18 and over website.” Yep, they were trying to get cam girls in there. Wow thanks.

    2. londonedit*

      My scam story: when I was at university, in about 2001, I fell for one of the ‘be a TV extra’ scams that was going round at the time. I was walking around in a major city and was stopped by a couple of young and trendy types who said they were ‘scouts’ for an agency, they LOOOOOOOOVED my look, and they wanted to sign me up. Obviously I was naive and stupidly flattered, but I thought I was being savvy – I asked questions, and I found out that if they took my photo and my basic details (age, height etc) I’d appear on their website, absolutely free of charge, for a whole month. According to them, I was basically guaranteed to start getting work as a TV extra almost immediately. So I agreed, they took my photo and gave me a whole ‘joining pack’ that looked very professional, and I was quite chuffed. Lo and behold, I checked their website the next day, and there I was on the front page with all their other ‘exciting new talent’. Remember that the internet was still fairly new back then, so appearing on a website was a big deal to me, and it all looked totally above board. Then, after a few weeks (strangely, I hadn’t had any work) they called me and said I’d need to pay them a fee of £99 for the next three months’ representation. At this point, I was wary because I was a student and £99 was a LOT of money, but they were very convincing and said that once I’d paid the fee, I’d be assigned a dedicated talent agent, and they’d do everything they could to get me regular work. So I paid. Did I ever hear anything from them? No. Did they get me any work? No. Did any of the contact details on the website work? No. At that point it was clear it had been a total scam all along, but I was so embarrassed at a) falling for it and b) wasting all that money that I never told anyone about it, I just chalked it up to experience. I still feel embarrassed and stupid thinking about it, nearly 20 years on!

    3. bonkerballs*

      My office has been hit with that scam daily for the last several weeks. Luckily I was the first person to be emailed: the email came from a spoof of my boss’s email address and said she was slammed in meetings all day and needed me to do her a favor. Except, I run her calendar and knew that day she had basically nothing scheduled that day. But had it gone to anyone else, the requests are fairly in line with things that would actually be requested by my boss so it would have been easy to fall for.

  59. Drax*

    LW2 – It happens to everyone. I work in a small office where no one is really tech savvy besides myself (and even I’m not that savvy). I’ve had to give them all crap as they keep falling for the documents “about the money transfer” which is a virus attachment at least once a month. GUESS WHO FELL FOR IT YESTERDAY?? This gal. I was actually waiting for a proof, and if I was paying attention I would have noticed the email had nothing to do with it and the document was named wrong, but I saw the name and made an assumption… it was the virus email.

    It happens to everyone, so don’t feel bad. Your company is doing the right thing by not letting you pay. If they were convincing enough you literally thought you were talking to your co-worker, then they are excellent scammers and it happens.

  60. Anon due to embarrassment*

    #2–YIKES–I literally fell for this scam and only realized it yesterday. Only it was $1k of my personal money, not my company’s. Takeaway for me is to look up email addresses and services before you send them money, and never send gift card info through email.

  61. Agent J*

    OP #1: Your friend asked you for marketing help for the nonprofit. But perhaps what he really needs is support in other areas, like a good friend to vent to about this tough transition in his life. Maybe what would really help him is someone to help him decide how we wants to manage the nonprofit moving forward.

    I agree with Alison and other advice to communicate clearly but what you can and cannot do. But depending on how close of a friend he is, I’d check in with him about life in general. He may be grieving and doing his best to uphold his father’s legacy and the personal stress is bleeding into his professional life.

  62. Parenthetically*

    Oh man, LW#3, my heart goes out to you, no sarcasm at all. I built up quite a wardrobe of professional teaching clothes over a decade and now have no occasion to wear 90% of it — and my dad is just fixin to retire and has a closet full of beautifully tailored suits, custom dress shirts and slacks, and dozens of gorgeous ties.

    I agree with some above commenters to break your suits down into separates. I know suit pants + dress shirt +- tie (jacket hung up behind your door) may seem a lot more dressed up than polo + chinos, but I think in people’s minds it’ll be “oh, he came from a more formal environment/likes to be able to throw on a tie and jacket and be ready for court in a jiffy” rather than “whoa, slow your roll there, Roger Sterling.”

    I’d also suggest, if you’re looking to downsize your professional wardrobe, looking into local charities that will find deserving second owners!

    1. Temperance*

      Just to piggyback on your comment, Dress for Success is a great nonprofit with locations throughout the US that is always accepting women’s professional clothing in good condition! In Philadelphia, there’s also Career Wardrobe, which is a personal favorite of mine.

      Very often, organizations providing services to veterans can use men’s professional clothing in good condition.

      1. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

        When my partner needed new suits a few years ago because his size had changed, the store gave him a discount on the new suits in return for donating the old ones so they could pass them along to a charity that provides interview suits for men. I’m sure they would have quite happy to accept the donations from someone who wasn’t buying new suits, because he was retiring.

  63. Abby*

    I fell for the same scam as LW2, and I really understand how you feel (I, too, am a young and at least not tech-stupid person). If you fall for this scam, call the company that issued the gift cards IMMEDIATELY. Mine was iTunes gift cards, and I called Apple and they were able to freeze the codes, transfer the cards to my account, and cash the account out (short story: I got the money back). Even better, they determined that the accounts the codes had been deposited into were scammer accounts that had other gift card codes that had not yet been spent or cashed out, so they froze all those codes, too, and shut down the accounts. That means if the people who bought those gift cards figure out the scam and call Apple, they will be able to get their money back. Of course, this only works if you figure out the scam in time to call the company, but it was very satisfying when it did. (I’m sorry if someone has posted this already, I don’t have time to read all the comments.)

  64. ArtK*

    For LW#2, my company has been hit by phishing e-mails a lot recently, so they shared this link.

    It’s a simple quiz to help folks learn to identify suspect e-mail. Not sure it would have helped in the LW’s situation.

    BTW, I hope that the company is doing some investigation. Frankly, that sounds like an inside job.

  65. Bunny Girl*

    Hey LW 2, honestly don’t beat yourself up for it. I used to work in law enforcement and the number one call we got was for scams. They are getting so sophisticated and it’s really depressing and frustrating. And a lot of times they do work! Just make it a personal policy going forward that you don’t purchase anything anyone asks of you unless it’s done face to face.

  66. hello*

    LW 3 – I think that throwing in long sleeve button downs or dress pants to the routine would be a way to be next to the dress code but still more formal. If people ask why you wear long sleeves or keep a blazer at work, you can always say that it’s cold.

  67. Employment Lawyer*

    3. I don’t like my new firm’s business casual dress code
    I work in that outfit all the time.

    The solution is simple:

    1) Slightly nicer pants (properly ironed, slightly higher end fabric, etc.)

    2) High end polos!
    To be specific, I swear by these, they’re all I wear (when I wear polos.) Nice drape, mild sheen, no visible logo. Trust me, they will look much better than you think. If you buy a bunch you should be able to find a retailer who will give you a deal.

    3) Keep a nicer pair of shoes (and matching belt and socks) in your office to slip on for client meetings.

    4) Purchase a nice and well-fitting blue blazer, and maybe one in another color as well (charcoal, pattern/etc.) They work well with blazers.

    5) ATTITUDE. Be the person who is so good at their job that they’ll beat you in jeans.

  68. CG*

    I’m glad that a bunch of people have already commented to suggest keeping a few blazers at your desk. My desk blazers save me on a regular basis.

  69. Hailrobonia*

    On the topic of scams, early in my career I received a letter with an invoice that seemed to be a scam involving an employment ad (I don’t know if this scam still goes around, but sometimes when we would post an employment ad in a print publication we would get a letter from some bogus company that would include a copy of the ad, trying to pretend that we advertised with them and owe them $ for printing the ad). Because I was sick of this scam, I called the contact person listed on the invoice and ranted at them… how dare you try to defraud this school! This is bogus, we aren’t paying it! etc.

    Oops! It turned out this invoice was legitimate, however it listed the name of the publication’s parent company which I was unfamiliar with, not the publication itself. As soon as I found this out I called back and apologized profusely.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      If they send you a letter via post, it’s mail fraud, most scammers won’t touch the postal service due to that!

      That’s why many moons ago the scammers you mistook your vendor for would fax the phony invoices hoping to reach a gullible person in accounting with no procedure for verifying payables. Argh.

  70. Brett*

    OP #2
    “The second that I realized what happened, I ran to fill in my supervisor and contacted IT and our accounting department to let them all know.”

    You probably think people think you are an idiot and look down on you as a co-worker right now.

    But read that sentence back to yourself.

    Your supervisor, your accounting department, and especially your IT all think you are amazing right now. You made a mistake (not a very costly one really) and you handled it perfectly and made everyone else’s job easier.
    People very rarely report issues like this directly to IT so quickly (often because of the embarrassment). You did. You think you cost the company $1000. You probably saved it far more than that. You saved IT a lot of work and saved _them_ a lot of embarrassment by making it easier for them to catch a spoofer.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Very much this!

      Scams and mistakes happen.

      Immediately reporting is absolutely the right thing to do!

    2. Agent J*

      This is a great response, and also something I will keep in mind if a scammer gets me in the future. :)

  71. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2 – as well as echoing from above that this does happen to everyone –

    – You did everything right
    – Your reaction of horror and embarrassment is also a reaction that will reassure the company

    And if I were the company – first reaction would be to be annoyed at being scammed (mostly at them) – but then realise that it can happen to anyone, and for just $1000, I now have someone who will NEVER fall for that again – and will warn others – which is pretty cheap long term.

  72. jk*

    #2 it’s ok! An old boss of mine clicked a UPS shipping scam email and had the entire company network held to ransom. Luckily we have an awesome IT team that saved the day. We had a few days of downtime but we got back to where we needed to be quickly.

    Just think about it like this. You were the one used to make the purchase… but they used the identity of an executive to do so and knew her contacts. Honestly it’s the executive that should be more concerned here and I’d bet she was one of the first to be compromised and you were just the first person to respond to an email from her.

    Not your fault! You were just doing your job. Perhaps they need to add a new process with approvals etc. to verify things in the future.

  73. Hm...can't think of something clever*

    #2: The EXACT same scam happened to me and I fell for it too! Luckily, I realized what was happening before I sent the codes but not before we had bought all the gift cards. It’s pretty mortifying but my company was also very understanding. We were able to sell the gift cards to a gift card website for 60% of the original cost. I totally understand the embarrassment but I feel better knowing someone else fell for it as well! So maybe knowing it wasn’t just you will help you feel better too :)

  74. Casual lawyer*

    I’m a female lawyer in a super casual office. Our everyday work uniform is jeans. We rarely meet clients in our office and in days where we are meeting clients we do dress up a little more – the male will typically wear a full suit maybe with a tie, the women sometimes a suit but more often a dress or skirt with a blazer. The nature of our work/clients means no one would be shocked if something came up last minute and we showed up at our clients’ office in jeans. Obviously hearing/court days we are in suits. I love the casual uniform but I do still find I tend to wear a blazer most days. I don’t have to – I could wear an old plaid shirt over a ratty t-shirt and no one would blink an eye. Wearing a blazer does make me feel a tad more professional.
    One day I was in an old hoodie and I ran into opposing council when picking I was out picking up lunch… it was not a good feeling, especially as he was older and in a much more conservative firm. I do think I was judged.
    I think a difference between myself and OP3 is that I love the casual wear, but I think there are ways to dress a bit more formally, but not in a way that sticks out too much. My way of bridging that is to wear blazers so at least I look professional on top, other ways might be to wear suit pants but no jacket, tie but no jacket, chinos but with a blazer/suit jacket. You will still be more formal than others but maybe not stick out so much. You might get a few comments at first but after a couple replies that are simply I’m comfortable in this people will drop it.

  75. GrayHat*

    OP #2, I’m a cybersecurity lawyer, and I help companies deal with incidents like these every. single. day. People fall for this all of the time, and honestly some of this is your company’s fault for not conducting training to warn employees to watch out for this scam. It’s SO common and I hope your company makes efforts to increase awareness of cyberattacks to prevent similar incidents in the future.

  76. The elephant in the room*

    OP #3: Is there a reason you can’t dress strictly business on your own? I work for a fairly large company and the “official” dress code is business casual, but the reality is that it depends on what your job is. Many people who are more client-facing dress in suits, while everyone else is happy in blouses and dark-wash jeans.

    (Funny anecdote: Company policy at a smaller compny I worked for was that everyone dressed up when the company was conducting interviews. This lead one person who we ultimately hired to believe we were strictly business. So he bought a bunch of suits. Cue his first day of work when he’s in a suit and everyone else is wearing jeans and tshirts. At first he was embarrassed, but then he said, “You know what? I bought the suits and, dammit, I’m going to wear them.” And, well, it worked for him.)

    1. TootsNYC*

      also, dressing “strictly business” can also be dressed DOWN once you get to the office. Drape your jacket over the back of the chair, loosen your tie, roll up your sleeves (or whatever similar thing you can do). Keep a baseball cap in your office.

      You can have it just be “your style,” maybe.

  77. TootsNYC*

    #4: How do you ask a question you should already know the answer to?

    When I am training people, I always make a point of saying, “I don’t expect you to remember this–I’m telling you now so you will hopefully remember that there was some extra level of detail that you should ask about when you finally get to the place that you need it.”

    I think the person being trained can do the same thing: “This is a lot of detail; I’m not going to try to remember it all, but I WILL remember that there’s more about RF reports, and I’ll ask you when I need it.”

    Also, there’s the whole “explain me more about this, in depth” idea.

    1. TootsNYC*

      oh, also…

      I think it’s the responsibility of people who are training someone to then provide re-training, or more detailed training, when they hand you the RF reports later. Basically, for about a year, they should be checking in with you as you start tasks to be sure you know what’s going on.

      So if you have to ask, it doesn’t mean YOU didn’t do “training” right–it means THEY didn’t.
      The wrong person is taking the responsibility and the blame.

      (Similarly, in the classic etiquette dilemma of using the “wrong” fork: The responsibility for this is the HOSTS’, not the guests’. The host is supposed to know what food will be served, finding the proper utensil to be used for it, and placing it on the table in the proper position (and order; first courses on the outermost position)–and removing it once that course is finished. The guest is just supposed to pick up the outermost utensil and eat. And yet guests around the world feel like they are the ones who need to know this. WRONG! If you are guest somewhere and you use the wrong utensil, your HOST has failed, not you.)

  78. Meißner Porcellain Teapot*

    OP 3: I would probably try to do a minimal dress down. For example, any suit and white shirt combination becomes instantly significantly less formal if you take off the suit jacket/blazer. For shoes, you could keep a second pair under your desk or in a drawer at work so you can switch quickly. Maybe try something like that for a month or two and if you’re still feeling really uncomfortable then, you can still keep looking.

    OP4: Like Alison said, this is something absolutely common that happens to most people at some point. There are two things I’d suggest in addition to Alison’s advice:

    1) At the end of training, always ask where you can find training materials and documentation for later reference. Skim these when you have a slow day and take a closer look at anything that catches your eye.

    2) If you manage to be actively aware of one of those gloss-over moments during training, make a quick note on whatever you are using for taking notes and add a symbol next to it that you only use for things that need further clarification. For example, your training notes could look like this:

    Report type A
    – urgent!
    – never check priority, only classification!
    – assign to team lead
    – always check ‘notify me of updates’
    Type B *******
    Type C:
    – medium prio
    – always assign to Jane!
    – date in right corner!
    – follow up next day

    In this case, the long string of asterisks next to “Type B” would be your reminder that you need more clarification. At the end of the day (or at the end of training, whenever your trainer gives you time to ask questions), quickly skim your notes to find these marked items and ask! That way, you spend minimal time on documenting it in the moment, but you have the chance to ask for clarification before training is over.

  79. Holly*

    OP#2 I recommend listening to this podcast episode – #97 What Kind of Idiot Gets Phished? by Reply All from Gimlet Media – it’s pretty entertaining, and will make you feel a LOT better about falling for scams! Essentially, the podcast is hosted/produced by very tech savvy people who claimed backwards and forwards they would never fall for a phishing scam, and another producer/host of the podcast secretly set up a phishing scam to see if they’d fall for it. It’s a great episode!

  80. Van Wilder*

    #2 – My friend also fell for this scam with Apple gift cards. Also an email from his boss “for clients”. He’s a lawyer. It happens.

  81. Public Sector Manager*

    For LW #3, I wouldn’t worry too much about what clients think of your wardrobe.

    When I was a young struggling attorney, I starting working with a firm that had business casual unless we were in court and even on certain days, actual casual (as in shorts in the summer casual). One day my boss was wearing shorts and a client asked about it. My boss just smiled and said, “when it comes to your bill, would you like the suit rate or the shorts rate?” The client laughed, and in the end, the client was absolutely thrilled with our firm.

    If you personally want to work at a firm that’s suits all the time, then please do. But if the only reason you don’t like business casual is client perception, you’re overthinking it. Don’t worry about it.

  82. bonkerballs*

    #3: I’ve known two different people with similar thoughts on business casual, but both came about and ended up differently. The first: I had a cousin who was in publishing in New York City and was a very sharp dresser in line with company culture. She relocated to a publishing firm in Portland and hated the way people dressed. She refused to alter her wardrobe at all, would not dream of taking up the granola casual of the PNW, and that would have been fine with her coworkers. Her problem was that she ended up not respecting her coworkers because she felt they always looked sloppy and unprofessional, and they ended up resenting her because they could tell she was judging them. Eventually she decided this was not the place for her and she moved back to New York. On the other hand, I used to live and work in Southern California with a man from Connecticut. He, like my cousin, was a sharp business dresser. He totally got that his New England version of business casual would never quite jive with our SoCal business casual, but he wore what he was comfortable in. It was way dressier than the rest of us, but we all just knew that’s what Dave liked and it would never have crossed any of our minds to feel weird or give him shit about it.

    I guess I’m a fairly live and let live person, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong or weird about you dressing above the dress code as long as you’re not judging anyone else for not. If you do what’s comfortable for you while also treating others with respect and cordiality, reasonable people will do the same for you.

  83. EJane*

    RE: #2: can confirm. I’m the technical coordinator for a MSP, and our clients have been getting a lot of these emails.
    Two protips:
    1. Always check that the actual email address matches the “mail-to” link. Generally, you can do this by hovering over the sender’s email address, or hitting reply and seeing what plain text pops up; it will always include the destination email in after the plain text email name.

    2. Even if the names match, it can be a scam, unless your email provider uses an SPF-enabled filter. This is way less common (1:8, probably) but still happens.

  84. Cat*

    Noooooo. Don’t leave your mythical unicorn lawyer job where it pays well and you leave the office at 5:30 over a dress code. The vast majority of firms are business casual now and hardly any of them have that kind of balance. It won’t be easy to find a business formal form that isn’t a sweatshop.

  85. Free Meerkats*

    One more thing for #2, it’s quite likely the company asked their credit card company to issue a chargeback for that transaction, so they won’t be out the money they won’t let you pay back anyway.

  86. Doodle*

    OP #5, in fact, you can be very helpful to your employer /whoever’s in charge of onboarding and training, because often the very things that you are clueless about are just those things that everybody else knows and doesn’t think to explain. Keep a list of these, and after you’ve been there awhile (I’d say, maybe 6 months??), share that with your mentor/trainer/manager. It will help with the next person hired!

    In the meantime, just ask. Also, if the amount of info coming at you is too huge to manage, or the training is going to fast, speak up about that also — when I’m training or mentoring, I really appreciate a newbie saying, “Let me make sure I have this right: first I do X and if it’s Y, then I go to Z? but if I do X and then it’s A, I should go to B, right? Oh, and can you remind me who Bob is?”

    Once you’ve been there awhile and new people are hired, please be that kind person who tells the new person, “Bob is Bob Murgatroyd in the warehouse; he knows everything about teapot delivery and can help you expedite a shipment.”

    1. SarcasticFringehead*

      Sharing your thoughts with the trainer is a great idea! When I was doing training, I had to work very hard to get people to suggest improvements to the process, partly because it was months earlier and partly because they’re nice people and didn’t want to say I did a bad job. Your input could really help improve the experience for new hires.

  87. Beth*

    LW3 – I had a coworker at a previous job who always wore dress pants and a dress shirt to work, and often had a nice vest or a tie or something tying the outfit together. It wasn’t at all in step with the company’s dress culture (which was very casual–lots of people in t-shirts and jeans), but he never felt out of place to me. I think because it wasn’t technically a ‘suit’, it didn’t feel out of place; I just assumed he was a snappy dresser and chose his style for his own reasons. This is silly, maybe–most of his outfits would have come off as suits if he’d thrown on a blazer, now that I think of it–but it worked.

    Maybe you could take a similar approach? Get dressed as if you were wearing a suit, then leave the blazer part in your car or in your office and only grab it if you end up in a client meeting. It sounds like your workplace is actually more formal than my old one was, so I bet you could make it work.

  88. Robin*

    LW #3 – I had the opposite problem. I went from casual jeans & t-shirts (for 17 years!) to business casual at my current job (3 year) and at first really only felt productive on Fridays when jeans are allowed.

    LW #2- We had someone almost fall for that too, but since it appeared to come from the person who handles petty cash and “company sponsored” gifts, the person went to her to get either cash or the company credit card. That was when they figured out the email was a scam.

  89. Noah*

    #3 — dress shirt and dress pants won’t look weird in a khakis and polos office. Go with that and get used to it. It’s not THAT huge a transition. Wear suits for client meetings. Nobody is going to think that’s weird. But only wear them for the meetings — keep a suit in the office for this purpose.

  90. Anonandon*

    Dress code – I’ve had experience in everything from business suits to jeans casual to anything goes. Currently I work at a biotech company where pretty much anything goes. I’m kind of at the point where I don’t really care what others wear as long as they are covered appropriately and any safety needs are met. For the lawyer, I can see how he (?) would want to be a bit more formal, so a nice dress shirt and slacks should answer the need without being too stuff (I actually did not think anyone still wore cufflinks!). He can always keep a blazer there if he wants to take things up a notch.

  91. Lady Rhyall*

    LW # 2 – Please know that you are NOT alone.

    I did this too! I’m in HR (!!!!!) and an email from our company owner/president came to my phone asking for X amount of iTunes gift cards. I told my boss, who gave me her credit card to add to mine in case I hit my limit, and I merrily skipped to the nearest grocery store to buy 25 $100 iTunes cards (I’M NOT KIDDING) and, after much debating with the customer service reps, finally acquired them. During the 45 minutes I was haggling with CS (because they don’t sell 24 gift cards at a time BECAUSE PEOPLE GET SCAMMED), I got several angry emails from “the owner” wondering where the cards were and what was taking so long. My boss knew, our accounting team knew (I told them there might be some weird purchases on the company card), like 7 other people knew and thought nothing of this! My coworker even had to go to a Walgreens and CVS to go get MORE cards because he “needed” 15 more! Eventually someone realized this was off and I. Was. Mortified. Our IT department had to create an entire mandatory training for all employees to go through because we had so many scammer emails after that.

    So please, please, please know that you are not alone and it’s okay. This stuff happens. I’m glad your employer is saying you don’t have to pay them back – it’s okay.

    1. jk*

      It says a lot though about the owner of the company when everyone is like ‘this is normal’! I had a VP like that who was very bizarre and I would probably fall for this too. He was the most random dude ever and I wouldn’t put something like this past him! Plus, you HAD to do what he said quickly or he’d get in a huff.

      1. Lady Rhyall*

        This is exactly why I don’t feel bad about this anymore!! Everyone thought it was totally fine.

  92. Autumnheart*

    I haven’t seen this suggested yet:

    OP3, if you have your own office or somewhere to put it where it wouldn’t be disturbed, I would just bring a suit to work and leave it at the office (in a garment bag, shoes too). When you meet with clients, change into your suit. When you’re done, change out of it. Rotate as needed. Then you won’t be alienating anyone at the office with your divergent office wear, and you won’t feel too dressed down in front of clients.

  93. SarcasticFringehead*

    LW4: I was the primary technology trainer at my previous job, and I always assumed I’d have to train everyone AT LEAST twice on everything we covered. You’re getting so much information, especially early in the job, that it would be impossible to remember it all without a photographic memory.

    The only time I would get annoyed was when people were clearly not engaged in the training (like, not even bothering to bring something to take notes with) and then later complained about not knowing how to do things. You sound very engaged and conscientious, and any reasonable trainer will understand that even the most engaged people can’t immediately absorb every bit of information that may or may not even be relevant to their job.

  94. VALCSW*

    LW #2, I, in fact, did not know where you were going with your letter, so please rest assured that your willingness to help the fake coworker was a natural response! Though it would be easy to feel guilty, please don’t beat yourself up too bad; it was clearly an honest mistake. I was the potential victim of such a scam, but was able to identify it right away ONLY because it was so out of character for the supposed sender to ask me for money. Had that been the type of relationship we had, I would have gladly done the same thing. I’m glad your company is being reasonable about this, but do not feel guiltier about this than the actual thief does.

  95. Akcipitrokulo*

    Another thought on OP2 – the company seriously doesn’t want you to pay for a very, very good reason.

    They don’t want people to be afraid to report this.

    They NEED people to feel confident to say “oh shit… I think I just got scammed…” immediately.

    So how they are treating you is good, and reasonable and how a normal, decent company would behave – but it is also in their interests. So please don’t worry about that.

    You have aided them immensely by acting properly, being an example of how to handle it as it happens, being an ambassador for how to avoid being scammed…

    … and being an example to others that “We will be reasonable – you can tell us!”.

    1. Anoncorporate*

      I second this. OP, you did the correct thing by reporting this immediately, rather than squirming around afraid that you got yourself in trouble.

  96. M*

    L2 this happened at my former company except the person sent every US workers W2 forms (social address, etc)! It was horrible. The person who sent the information also shouldn’t have had access to the W2s and she is still employed (and got promoted or so I have heard!!!). This happened a couple years ago and the company (an international non profit) tried to make employees sign something so we wouldn’t sue. I never signed and most people I know didn’t sign either. I got out of there but had multiple people open credit with my information and almost destroyed my life.

    If someone sends you a dodgy email asking for any kind of information call that person on the phone or go over and ask. Waiting an hour to get the correct information is better than doing this nonsense. Don’t send sensitive stuff over email!

    1. Luisa*

      This happened at my friend’s company too! He and his wife had to go through a bunch of extra stuff with the IRS (the real one, not the one from fake scam calls!) because his W2 was used to file a fraudulent tax return, and the company also set employees up with credit monitoring, etc. Fortunately they (personally) didn’t have any other problems as a result of this.

  97. Junior Dev*

    Can the lawyer OP #2 wear a suit, but take off the jacket and tie, and unbutton the top couple buttons, except when presenting?

  98. MP*

    Hello #3 – I’ve experienced this before, too – I prefer to be more formally dressed, and feel I perform better when dressed that way. And I look *very* young for my age. I also spent a lot of money in getting my professional wardrobe in place, so hated to get rid of it. Caveat, I am a woman, but I notice what men wear quite a bit (maybe because I’m a woman ;-) ). Anyway. Here’s my cost saving suggestion for you, if you want to stay at this firm. Wear your suit pants with your dress shirts. Nice belt and shoes. It looks *much* better than the chinos/dress shirt combination others are suggesting. More elegant and polished. Plus, you own all these things already. If you know you will be meeting with clients or giving a presentation, you can bring the matching jacket.

    I think the rest of your firm will be ok with it; often younger people dress a bit more fashionable/polished than older people, so it’s pretty normal. You could also drop in that you already owned these things, and didn’t want to buy a whole new wardrobe, which will actually make you seem less fussy about clothes.

    I will say, I actually think you might want to consider switching firms, because attire does set the tone for a place. It’s not just clothes, but an idea of what the firm is.

    1. Steph*

      For OP #3: I had a similar situation at my workplace as well. For my first few months I wore a blazer over slacks and a nice shirt because I wanted to be taken seriously and dress up to a more responsible role, but my campus was simply too casual and it didn’t fit. I actually love wearing light open sweaters that have the same form as a blazer but feels more in line with our culture. I have a few in black and different shades of gray. It can go well with a formal blouse or a more casual top. It also helps keep you warm on cold bitter days like today!

  99. Liz*

    #4 – I’ve done this. I’m technically part of a team of 7, but what I do honestly is completely different than what the rest of my team does. A few months ago, someone asked me to do X, and it’s really a fairly basic task that anyone on the team should know how to do within a week or two of working here. I’ve been here over 5 years, and have no clue how to do it. There was a moment where my coworker was like “but…how…”

    Now? We just laugh about it and depending on the day, I never learned because I’m not worthy of that sort of knowledge, or because I’m too awesome to know such a menial task. :)

  100. Mrs. D*

    OP2, email scams are dangerous. Part of the reason (I think) is because a lot of email mobile apps or desktop software don’t show the full email of the sender unless you click to view the sending details. You’ll just see a name, and if you recognize it you don’t suspect anything. I’ve gotten emails from my “husband,” “iTunes” and other senders that I would recognize and might not suspect. But when I view the sending details, the email from the sender is one that is different from the legitimate contact or company.

    In general, my best advice is to not open any attachments (even pictures), do not click any links in the body of the email, and don’t even respond to requests for money/gift cards/login information/account verification/etc. unless you can confirm that you know the sender. Even an email or website that is off by one character is immediately suspect. Check with your IT Dept if they’d like you to forward suspect messages to them in the future. They may have tools they can use to combat these scam emails from hitting the inboxes of anyone else in your company.

    Oh, and final tip for everyone: hover your mouse cursor over any email address or URL and you’ll see in the bottom left-hand corner of the window where that email/link will ACTUALLY go. Just because is the hyperlinked text in the email doesn’t meaning clicking on it will actually take you there. Keep your information safe, friends!

  101. LawBee*

    #3 – just keep a suit at work and change into it for your meetings. Also, are you sure that your clients are taking you less seriously in less formal wear? My firm represents mostly blue-collar workers, so we dress to fit in with them, but I have noticed that most corporate defense attorneys (who are usually the MOST buttoned-up) are showing up to depos etc in khakis and polos, or a simple Oxford. (None of them have met my jeans-and-sweater standard, but that’s fine by me.)

    Now, if the issue is really that you feel less productive and lawyerly in more casual clothes, I get it. There’s a reason why I never work from home; it’s *too* relaxed! If you like the work though, and the firm is good, I’d try to find a happy medium. Sprinkle in some chinos (idk what men wear) once or twice a week, leave off the cufflinks.

  102. Anoncorporate*

    #2: You are understandably traumatized, but this is one of those mistakes that really wasn’t your fault. You’re allowed to be trusting sometimes. I consider myself to be a “tech savvy millennial”, and honestly I could see myself falling for this scam. Someone convincingly pretended to be your boss, so you had to be extra discerning to realize it was a scam.

  103. M*

    I had that #2 email come to me too! used the name of my boss who’s also the director of our department. It went like this (exact copy-paste from the emails)

    “Are you available for a quick task?”

    so i responded yes. i saw my boss’s name & it looked the way emails do when sent from a phone.

    “I need eBay gift cards to send out to a client, can you make this happen? If so, let me know if you can get it now so I can advise the quantity and domination to procure”

    Now, I was actively looking for things for giveaways so on one hand it didn’t seem like something out of his realm of asking. That said…I hadn’t heard of eBay gift cards before and we don’t work with “clients” in our business. So, i walked over to his office for clarification and he had no idea what i was talking about. Both of us at first had assumed he’d asked me for something & forgot bc he was busy, but the email had just been sent, so to forget that fast would mean he needed to get a doctor’s visit set up. He came over & i showed him the emails & he confirmed that it wasn’t from him. We noticed the email address it came from and i felt like suuuuch an idiot bc i always say i never fall for this stuff. I didn’t send any money over, but I still had responded to the 1st one so they managed to get me.

    the email address it came from was ceoaccess at mailbox dot org

  104. Gazebo Slayer*

    I’ve dealt with a similar situation to #1, though he was not a former coworker, and it’s a large part of why I quit a former volunteer position. He was an affluent retiree who seemed not to understand that I couldn’t drop everything to do the work he wanted right away during business hours, and he wasn’t the only person like that in the organization; there was one woman who was baffled that I couldn’t afford to spend $1000 on high-end graphic design software.

    I’d write something to this guy like “Honestly, I’m surprised that you’re sending urgent requests during work hours, considering that you used to work at the same company where I still do.” Something to politely convey to him that his requests are unreasonable and he has no excuse not to know that.

  105. Tertia*

    Yes, I was saved from falling for this one solely because our bookstore had seen it so many times that they warned me when I tried to buy the cards.

    Eventually someone reading this thread will get the same message. If you do, please, please please do the following script.

    * Promise to go buy the cards. Wait 20 minutes.
    * Send e-mail saying “Okay, I sent it.”
    * The scammer will reply that they didn’t get it. Wait 10 minutes.
    * E-mail back: “Weird.”
    * Wait 5 minutes.
    * E-mail back: “Do you think I should resend it?”
    * The scammer will say yes. Wait 10 minutes.
    * E-mail back: “Okay, I resent it.”

    Continue for as long as you can keep them going.

    1. JoAnna*

      It’s even more fun if you have Photoshop skills when you can doctor up fake gift cards with fake numbers. Then you act all puzzled when the numbers don’t work.

  106. JoAnna*

    I had to laugh, I got a call from “Apple support” (it showed up that way on caller ID, even!) while reading this thread, telling me that my iCloud account had been locked. It’s not the first time it’s happened, either. I usually press one and ask so many pointed questions that they get frustrated and hang up on me.

    Op2, chalk this up as a learning experience. In essence, your company just paid $1000 for a valuable lesson in email security training. :)

  107. Orange You Glad*

    #1 – I’ve found when volunteering my professional skills for nonprofits, it’s important to draw some clear boundaries. Ask yourself whether or not you really want to volunteer for your friend and if you do, how much time you can offer. From there I would meet with this person and hash out exactly what you both want/expect out of the relationship. I think it’s best to do in person or maybe over the phone/skype, not just by sending e-mails back and forth where tone could be lost.

  108. HeatherC70*

    LW2 – I feel badly for you.
    In 2016 – I fell for a phishing scam. My whole executive team was on the East Coast for a Board meeting. An email from the CEO came through asking for confidential employee information. This guy did stuff like this ALL the time, so it didn’t come across as anything unusual – I figured he needed the data for a report.
    So … I replied with all the data he asked for & upon hitting >send< noticed that the address wasn't right.
    The company's IT consultant said I should just ignore it and pretend it never happened. I couldn't in good conscience do that … so I called the CEO & CFO and told them what happened.
    Fast forward a few days …. I was fired. Everyone got 1 year free credit monitoring, and the whole thing was pretty much ignored.
    I kept in touch with some friends there, and they said there was NO training around how to look out for those kind of emails, and they told me the Finance team had received several fraudulent wire requests after I left … so I guess in the scheme of things, data safety was of little concern to that company.
    At my current job, I've been getting phishing emails almost weekly – and my #1 thing to do is to reply to the sender that I MUST voice-verify all requests. Funny how I never get calls back….

    1. Stuff*

      #1 I would have a sit down with him to set expectations. He seems to think that “helping” means you will do what he needs when he needs it. You need to set a clear expectation about how much and what type of work this means and when you are available. He seems to think you are going to be a supplemental employee instead of hiring someone.

  109. MissDisplaced*

    #1 Don’t kick yourself too hard over this! That type of spoofing is difficult to spot, especially in this instance where it seems normal to purchase things like gift cards for clients. And your reaction upon becoming suspicious was on-point. Really not your fault.

    #4 Business casual. I think you can find a suitable middle ground. Keep a neutral color sport jacket handy for whenever you have client meetings or presentations. It will automatically make you look more professional, even with jeans or over a polo or sweater or more relaxed dress shirt (think Untucked).

  110. to#3*

    I’ve heard of the email scam going to new associates at law firms where it looks like it’s a partner requesting help, etc. It appears to be pretty common and the scammers are quite good – so be glad that you shared your experience and hopefully prevented someone else from falling to the same one!

    And any good company would not make you pay for that.

  111. Nicole*

    OP #1 please, for your sanity, draw a hard line with him now before it gets worse. Next thing you know he’s going to be demanding you prioritize his work over your paying job. You don’t owe him anything so do not let yourself be bullied into committing more than you want to.

  112. Another Lawyer*

    For the young lawyer – -I’m a young lawyer working in a very, very casual-dress office. But everyone keeps a blazer and some nice shoes (or even a blazer, slacks, and nice shoes) in their offices so that, if someone shows up, you can change. I strongly recommend that to help with the client meetings.

    Unfortunately, that won’t help with the fact that you’re more productive when you’re dressed nicely. I know this will sound ridiculous, but have you considered wearing less comfortable casual clothes? Pants with tight waistbands, or button-down shirts under a hoodie? If the problem is that you feel too relaxed, maybe making the clothes less comfy would help.

  113. Envy*

    My husband got a text message this weekend claiming his Netflix payment declined and if he clicked the attached link he could make the payment that way. Obvious scam because netflix doesn’t text when payment declines and my husband had just checked account on-line to see what payments had come out earlier and saw the nexflix payment was made.

  114. Diana*

    For the OP on the dress code, definitely consider just mixing in your more formal pieces with new casual pieces. I can’t say I have a ton of work experience but the time I do have is being a consultant so the dress code for different clients varies a lot and my wardrobe can only get so far. I learned always bring a blazer in case you need more formality, and accessories can dress up or down an outfit. I usually aim for 50% formal and casual when I go into my company office because they are pretty casual. I kind of think of it on like a scale of 1-10 how casual or formal is each piece, at the end my outfit in total should average in the middle. Banana republic factory has some good pieces, but you probably have more formal pieces. Old Navy is a surprising place for casual work clothes, they have tees with no-logos and great work jeans that are skinny while not being too tight.

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