I Was a Victim of a Gift Card Scam

By Raven West

Now that criminals have exhausted the “your relative is in danger” and “you’ve won millions in a Nigerian account” scams, they found another way to steal from vulnerable people, especially unsuspecting seniors; Gift Card Scams.

This is a relatively new endeavor, and probably more insidious. I wish I’d heard about this before last week, or read the article: Why gift card fraud is growing—and why the scammers are so hard to fight, before I, too became a victim.

I have to admit, much to my chagrin, there were enough red flags to cover all of Camarillo. Had I read the following account of my experience, I would have said “How could she have been so stupid?”

Taking into account the stress of being stuck at home since the middle of March and the horrific news coverage of the past week, I wasn’t getting much sleep, so I can give myself plausible excuses as an answer, or I can do what I do best; write the story in hopes it might save someone else from being a victim.

On June 5, I received three calls on my cell phone and two phone calls on my home phone from 843-885-8861 saying the registration for Microsoft 3530 was going to be automatically renewed for $399. I hung up the four times, but made the mistake of answering the last one to tell them I did not want to renew this – and to cancel. The person told me a representative from Microsoft would be calling me with instructions as to how to cancel the service.

I then received a call from a “Jeff Miller” (I’m sure not his real name) from area code 701-360-7834 explaining that I needed to fill out a “form” through my computer in order to cancel and refund the money into my bank account. At first I hesitated – then went through the process.

Using a reverse directory, we discovered the phone number belonged to a Margie Bone from Grand Falls, North Dakota who DIED in 1901!

“Jeff” then told me to www.supremofree.com and download the program so he could refund the money to my account. As I was filling out the form, when it came to the refund amount line I typed in $400, but the program showed the amount was $4000!

I didn’t think (at ALL) that I hit an extra “0” (which I probably didn’t), but when I checked my on-line bank account it was showing an additional $4,000 balance. Jeff really went at me at that point, saying it was a fraudulent deposit and that I needed to return the money.

(What I found out later was that he’d actually gone into the program code and just changed the number on the screen – there WAS no $4,000 deposit)

I asked him how I could just transfer the money back, but he said that would send up a flag (one of the millions I should have seen in the first place) however, his company (NOT Microsoft) “in partnership” with Walmart and I should buy gift cards to total $4,000 – then call him with the card number and pin…. which I stupidly did – I bought 4 cards at $500 each. He then told me go to my bank and withdraw $3,000 in cash and he would give me an address to mail it to – ALL this time the transfer of funds from my savings to my checking account was covering all these transaction.

He called me again to say that the cards did not go through, so I needed to purchase two more cards.

(Please don’t tell me how STUPID this all sounds, I know)

Due to the Coronavirus, my bank branch was closed, so I withdrew $2,000 total from the ATM on two separate occasions and paid the gift cards with cash – the last $2,000 I put on my Target card to get the rest of the $4000.

He called me nine times on my cell phone and four more times on my home phone on June 5. He then called my cell 12 times on the 6th to make sure I had gotten the gift cards and to scratch off the account information on the back and tell him the numbers, which I also did.

What finally brought this nightmare to an end was that he also wanted to access my husband’s account – so he could “deposited” 6,000 into that account as well. Again, this was just a code edit, not actual money. That really sounded fishy, but it only got worse.

I later discovered that he’d also transferred all the money that was in my savings into my checking account and told me it had come from THEM and I needed to buy more gift cards. (Had I checked my on-line account at this point, I would have seen this, but I didn’t, unfortunately).

He then suggested I use another credit card, or try to get more money from the ATM, none of those were optioned I was going to do at that point.

When I got home I called him immediately and he assured me (in that very sweet, kind “totally FAKE voice) everything would be taken care of, the money would be redeposited into my account and not to worry.

(P.S. whenever anyone tells you not to worry, that’s the time to really be worried!)

This morning I received a phone call from Jeff and I thought he was going to deposit all the money back into my accounts. As he said he would, as I believe he would. Well, you know what happened next.

Again, he told me two of the cards didn’t go through and I should take my HUSBAND’S debit card which had “added” the $6,000 and buy 2 more cards, or else he wouldn’t be able to release the funds. I told him I’d have to call him back.

Suddenly, this “nice” guy got really nasty, whenever my husband asked him a question – he said he was going to freeze my on-line account and I wouldn’t get back my money (which I’m sure is long gone by now) He just wanted me to get the last $1,000, which he did not. I recorded this conversation to further document the fraud.

Just now we received another phone call on my home phone AND my cell phone and again on my home phone. This time my husband answered and Jeff THREATENED him, saying he was going to come to our house unless we let him fix the problem! He also sent several text messages (poorly written as you can see) when I told him I was reporting him to the FBI Internet Fraud division and hung up: These are the messages:

U won’t b getting ur money if u call me a fraud mam!

30 min

U decied wat u want to do mam

14 minU do wat ever u want bt the only Pearson who can help u mean is me

13 min

No one can help u apart from me!

13 min

Dats it

I immediately filed an FBI report with what information I had. I tried calling Citibank but was told since I’d purchase the gift cards, there was no fraud and as such, there also wasn’t anything they could do.

I called the phone number on the Walmart card and found out that they were used in Oklahoma City and North East Maryland. I then spoke to very nice representative at Target who took my information, gave me a resource number for their investigation, but she didn’t think I would see any funds returned.

A note to these stores – IF SOMEONE IS GOING TO USE A GIFT CARD, BE SURE THEY HAVE THAT CARD WITH THEM, NOT JUST S NUMBER AND A PIN – and if they don’t have the card, CHECK THEIR I.D., write their address on a copy of the receipt and, if you can TAKE THEIR PICTURE!

Several of the Target staff did mention there were scammers out there, so they could only sell two cards at $500 each, but they went ahead and processed the purchase anyway. I do appreciate the representative in the Walmart location in Oxnard who refused to sell me the cards. I certainly wish the others had as well.

I also wish that I had received ANY alerts from CitiBank about these very suspicious transactions on my debit card, or the transfer from my savings, but unfortunately that was not the case.

I can’t even begin to say how VERY stupid I feel. I’ve heard of so many of these cases and NEVER thought I’d be a victim, but I’ve also heard the same from people who are a lot smarter than I am. Once I left my “Pity Party” where I consumed all the liquor in my home, and once I stopped kicking myself for falling for this scam, I starting searching on-line and found stories of other victims, including a woman who lost $37,000, and a couple in Utah were scammed out of $600k!

I guess I can take some solace in the fact I didn’t lose nearly that much, or that I got wise to the scheme before I lost anything more, but it’s still going to take me awhile to forgive myself for being such an easy, vulnerable, naive, target. Oh by the way, if I hadn’t been “safe at home” I would have been at work and none of this would have happened! Guess I wasn’t so “safe” after all.

(On a positive note, I did manage to lose those 5 pounds I put on because I was too upset to eat.)

I’ll recover from the financial loss eventually. I’ll recover from feeling like a total failure eventually as well. But for now, I’ll do what I do best when I need to recover from a devastating loss: write a story about what happened in the hopes that will save anyone else from becoming a victim!

By Raven West: A small town postmaster secretly edits a NY City district attorney’s manuscript and becomes the target of  jealousy, blackmail and revenge

Purchase your copy in Kindle or paperback at First Class Male

 


Raven West is a free-lance writer and published author who has lived in Ventura County for more than twenty years. She has an extensive knowledge of local wineries from Thousand Oaks to Ojai and will be covering special events which take place at the tasting rooms throughout the year.Named in the TOP 50 Authors by Authorsdb.com


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Michael A.

These crooks always have Indian accents so that’s your first clue. Youtube has lots of great videos of people who know how to scam the scammers. One of the best is Jim Browning. Look him up.

Mary

I was a victim of this same scam strategy 3 months ago and I lost $21,400 to this scammer that called himself “Ryan Wilson”. After this incidence, I was broke for a long time because that was my life savings. I kept checking the internet if there was a way I could get my money recovered to me. I saw an advert popped up on my screen while surfing the internet about “internet scam recovery” I checked the website popped up and it is a scam complaint platform. I felt positive about services and I filed my complaint immediately. They helped me in recovering my money back to me in a short period. I was excited, I thought I wouldn’t be able to ever get my money back. I was refunded my full $21,400 in installments. They could be of help to you too.
Bluespringes .com or enquiries @bluespringes .com to help you through your recovery journey in a short time.

Luke Wang

I had the same experience and the scammer were using the same strategy. I spent 8 hours trying to buy enough gift cards to Pay back the “over the refund amount”. As each company has a limit of $1,000 or $2,000, I had to buy 3 different cards.
I though it was a legitimate business provided service to my computer before, so I did not take Target clerk warning that it was a scam. Until late in the afternoon when I watch them withdrawing money from my account, I sensed that it could be a scam. But it was too late.
The details are similar to Debra Tash experience. I could not forgive my own stupidity. I share my terrible experience by hoping the Internet and gift card companies would improve their policy to prevent this type of crime.
People hurt the most are senior like me, I am 72 years old. I am losing memory and getting slower to respond or react. What I hate the most are scammers using people’s honesty and kindness as weakness.
I hope the victim’s suffering will push gift card companies to require receivers to show photo ID and leave a trace of who they really are. I hope the telephone companies will do the same by not giving a telephone number to an unreal name. I hope software companies like “TeamViewer” will record every connection to whoever used it for a period of time until nobody complains being scammed.
The government and the big Internet companies can do a lot more to protect consumers. Though privacy should be respected, it should not become a weapon of bad guys.