Lifestyle & Human Interest

Good Samaritan Foils Scammer's Plot After Making Small Observation


While technology continues to develop and change at a head-spinning rate, one thing that doesn’t change is that ill-intentioned opportunists will always find ways to swindle people — especially the elderly — out of their hard-earned money.

One particular scheme involves scammers posing as authorities or companies and demanding payment in the form of gift cards to settle various issues.

While you might have heard of this kind of scam before, it’s still running rampant, and more people need to be aware of it.

Andy Auten was at a CVS store in Waterford, Michigan, in early February on a Tuesday night when the transaction taking place ahead of him sent up red flags.

A man, about 65 years old, was purchasing two $500 Visa gift cards, and Auten immediately sensed something was off.

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“The gentleman in front of me was trying to buy two $500 gift cards,” Auten told WJBK-TV. “I’ve seen a lot of scam videos, and it just looked like a scam because who buys a thousand dollars of CVS gift cards?

“I said something to the cashier after he walked out. He said, ‘Well, I asked him and he said he was buying them for his grandkids,’ and, which I’ve heard on scam things before,” Auten said. “So I called the police and gave them a description of the gentleman.”

Thankfully, police arrived and were able to intercept the man. When they approached him, he was sitting in his car, on the phone with the scammers — the police stopped him just before he made a costly mistake.

“I wouldn’t want my grandpa or my mom or anyone else I know to get scammed like that,” Auten said. “A lot of people would say ‘not my problem,’ but we need to help each other out.”

Later, police said they found out that someone posing as a representative from the Norton security software company had emailed the man to alert him to an “issue” with his account, saying the account had been compromised and requesting $750 in Visa gift cards to rectify the problem.

The scammer even instructed the man to say the gift cards were for his son if anyone asked.

David Derigiotis, a cyber risk expert with the Burns & Wilcox insurance company, said that if you’re ever speaking with someone claiming to be with a company who requests gift cards as a form of payment, discontinue communication immediately: That’s a tell-tale sign of fraud.

“No reputable company, no security firm, and no government entity will ever ask for payment in any form of gift cards,” Derigiotis told WJBK.

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He also confirmed that this is still a problem.

“If you look at the first nine months of 2021, $148 million were paid out in scams via gift cards,” Derigiotis said. “We need to make sure we’re sharing this type of information with all of our parents, grandparents — those around us in the community — the more people that know, the better we’ll be able to be at stopping this crime from happening.”

Another woman recently posted on Facebook telling a tale similar to the one Auten experienced: She’d been at a store and noticed a “sweet much older lady” attempting to buy $1,600 in eBay gift cards.

“I asked her what she was doing, and she explained it was a way for her to prepay her AT&T bill,” Pamela Mathis Estabrooke wrote on Facebook. “The check out lady sent her to customer service. By the time I got to my car looked up the scam and got back inside thankfully the customer service manager on duty had refused to sell her the cards.

“(I) convinced her that this was not a legitimate AT&T offer. She shook her head and said I’ll take this money home and try to convince my husband that this is a scam.

“Publix fortunately has a policy that they do not allow customers, especially older citizens, to buy cards in large amounts. Y’all watch out for your parents and each other.”

We hope the loved ones in your life know about this nefarious gift card scheme. It could save them a lot of aggravation.

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