A variation of the gift card scam hit a local retail store this week. A store employee received a call from a man who identified he was from the corporate office. He advised the employee that several other employees were stealing money from the store and they were conducting an investigation and obtained the employee’s cell number. During the ‘investigation,’ the ‘corporate office’ asked the employee to take money from the till and purchase some "green dot Money Pak card.” Once the card was purchased, the employee was told to scratch and reveal the pin number for the card on the back and provide him with that number. Once that was done, he told the employee to destroy all of the receipts as well as the card and advised he would be at the store the following morning to arrest the co-workers who were involved in the theft. This was a scam.
In general, if anyone requires you to go purchase a gift card to release a gift or pay a fine, you can bet it is a scam. Also, with tax season approaching, we can expect more scammers to try and take advantage of people. Scammers are thieves of opportunity and when they know people will be getting money, such as tax refunds, they are likely to seek victims. No police agency, federal agency, or legitimate business will ever require you to go get a gift card. In the past, EPD has taken reports of people getting calls telling them there is a problem with their social security number being used, a warrant for arrest, grandchild in jail, funds being held in limbo, or other ploy and that the victim must be responsible for getting the number secured by purchasing gift cards and providing the pin numbers over the phone. These scams try to alarm you, scare you, or entice you to play along sometimes in the hope for a payout. Don’t be fooled. Scammers trick you into handing over your cash, personal I.D., checking account numbers, and credit card information any way they can.
The Federal Trade Commission has some good advice:
The Eugene Police Department would like to remind people to follow their instincts and never feel embarrassed about confirming the identity of a caller. This can be accomplished by contacting the represented agency directly via a published contact phone number and asking to speak with the individual directly or confirm the information with the agency’s non-emergency phone number. If you are aware that the call is a scam, please report the activity to the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline, 1-877-877-9392 or www.ic3.gov. EPD’s non-emergency number is 541.682.5111, if you are unsure about the information or have been victimized by the scam.
These cases provide an opportunity for a reminder on how to avoid becoming the victim of fraud. Scams are cyclical in nature. Eugene Police recommend to remain careful and skeptical of callers:
- If someone asks you for your cash, credit card numbers or other personal information-especially if you don’t know them well-the safest move is to refuse their request and check with the police, or find an independent way to contact a legitimate business and follow up rather than responding right away to the caller.
- A legitimate government agency will not ask you to purchase gift cards.
- Don’t give out personal or financial information to someone who calls you. If you are unsure, hang up and independently find the phone number of the alleged represented agency and call yourself. A law enforcement agency will not ask you for this type of information or request that money be sent by way of money order for any reason.
- Beware of high pressure techniques, such as the need to give information or make a decision on the spot.
- If it sounds quirky, weird, or too good to be true, it probably is.