COLORADO SPRINGS — News5 is watching out for you and your wallet. Fraudsters have turned themselves into millionaires draining gift cards purchased by people they've manipulated through scam calls and emails. We take a look at the problem in Colorado and what's being done to stop it.
If you're asking yourself who falls for a gift card scam? Just ask employees at Colorado Safeway stores, they tell us people are being targeted on a daily basis.
It's happening so often that Safeway stores right here in southern Colorado have begun posting signs near the gift card kiosks letting shoppers know gift cards are meant to be gifts, not payment for someone posing as law enforcement, a government agency, or a business on a scam call.
Safeway is partnering with local law enforcement to raise awareness about gift card scams and to help train employees to recognize the signs of one of these scams to help prevent shoppers from making the costly mistake that normally costs them hundreds of dollars.
"So, in our 123 stores throughout our division we probably get about one notice a day, for sure a couple times a week of a customer who was in the process of falling for a scam, or that we believe may have. We just saw this increase happening and we saw it impact not only the elderly, but really professionals in our communities," said David Montoya of the Safeway and Albertson's Grocery Chain.
According to the Federal Trade Commission gift cards are a top way for scammers to finance their schemes. In 2020, scammers made more than $124 million dollars off of gift card scams as people were intimidated by scam calls and emails leading them to purchase gift cards to pay the fraudsters.
In November of 2019 News5 followed up on a similar story when we learned a Safeway employee in Woodland Park helped a shopper avoid falling victim to one of these gift card scams.
"Right when she brought up what happened I explained to her no government agency is ever going to ask for your information, or gift cards. So, we explained that to her. We established it was a scam and we dealt with it," Safeway employee Sophia Rossi told News5.
"She knew something was wrong by looking at me. I was shaking. It makes me feel like people care because so many times things happen and people just look the other way and keep on going, but this is great because somebody cares enough to do this and get the information out," Jean told News5 after the help she got to avoid falling victim to a gift card scam.
Because of the actions of the Safeway employees that day and Jean's willingness to get help, she avoided paying scammers $700 in Google Play gift cards.
The scammers will demand you buy gift cards and then ask you to give them the card numbers. Once you do that, the crooks drain the card and the money is gone.
It's important to report these crimes so investigators can stay up to speed on the scam tactics.