2 local women nearly lose thousands in gift card scams

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REXBURG — Two different women, two different scams, two close calls.

Rexburg Police are issuing a warning after they were called to investigate two potential fraud causes this week.

On Monday, a 74-year-old woman from Driggs drove to Walgreens in Rexburg with $1,800 cash and tried to buy gift cards because of a phone call she had received.

“A man called and said he was a Teton County Sheriff deputy. He said she had missed jury duty and was going to jail but he could help her if she got these gift cards,” Rexburg Police Capt. Randy Lewis says. “So she drove on down to Rexburg and tried to get these cards.”

Walgreens employees told the woman it was likely a scam but she didn’t believe them and left the store to buy the gift cards elsewhere.

The workers called police and officers were able to stop the woman in her vehicle nearby before she lost her money.

“She was hesitant. She thought she was going to jail but we told her it was a scam and helped her out. Things ended well,” Lewis says.

The next day, on Sept. 11, a 71-year-old woman walked into the same Walgreens and tried to buy $2,000 of gift cards. She had received a phone call from someone claiming to be technical support.

“He said his name was Jerry and that he needed the money to help her,” Lewis says. “We responded to the store and told the woman that this was a scam.”

Investigators learned the woman had already wired $10,000 from her bank account to the scammer but she was able to contact the bank and stop the transfer before losing the money.

Police say scammers often target the elderly because they can be easy victims. Another woman recently told officers she has been paying $300 a month for computer technical support and it’s likely a scam, according to Lewis.

“We don’t want anybody else falling victim to these,” he says. “If you get these type of calls, contact family members or neighbors that you know and let them know what’s going on before giving out any information. And never give personal information over the phone – bank account numbers, social security numbers – all that is an indicator that it’s a fraud.”

If a scammer calls, here’s what to do:

  • Know the common signs of a scam. Scammers typically ask for payment to be made by untraditional means, such as by paying at a store which has MoneyGram or Western Union service. Others request payment by requesting the purchase of pre-paid gift cards and ask for the numbers on the card.
  • If you’re just not sure whether the call is a scam, ask questions such as asking for the billing office phone number and tell the caller you will call them back. Then verify the number is correct by checking your billing statement or looking it up online.
  • If you’re fairly certain the call is a scam, hang up and block the phone number from calling you again.
  • Report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission online at ftccomplaintassistant.gov or by phone at 1-877-382-4357.
  • Make sure your phone number is on the National Do Not Call Registry at donotcall.gov. This is a free service. Calling lists are a common way for scammers to get phone numbers.
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