I work in retail, ,((Lowes), just the day before yesterday I stopped a woman from buying $3000 worth of gift cards. We are trained to spot potential scams, so I did a little probing as I rang her up:
Her: "I’'d like to buy these gift cards, I have a lot of cousins getting married. (Hands me 6 gift cards, wants the maximum $500 on each)
Me: (suspicion aroused). “Sure, but because of the amount of the transaction. I need to ask you a few questions and advised you of potential fraud”
Her: " Oh, I know about all that but OK"
Me: “Did someone call you and tell you to buy these because you or someone you know was in trouble”
Me:" Did someone tell you to buy them but told you to say they were for a wedding?"
Her: “No.” (Less convincing)
At this point, I’m ready to tender the sale, which would debit her card and activate the gift cards.
Me: “One last question. Has someone called you and told you to read off the numbers to them after purchase?”
Her: (no answer)
I look up and she has gone all-white, with a terrified look on her face. She pointed to her phone in her hand and whispered “they’re on the phone right now.!”
She started crying, I cancelled the sale immediately and went around the counter to her and told her to hang up the phone. She started sobbing uncontrollably, saying they told her that her identity had been stolen, that someone was selling drugs in New Mexico under her name, that they were from the government and were there to help, etc. I took her in the back so she wouldn’t be as embarrased. The scammers called back several times while I was talking to her, I told her to ignore them. She was completely beside herself. She said the new things about her family, that she just bought a house, etc. She admitted that she had already been to another store and bought $ 1000 worth of cards and provided the numbers to the scammers. I told her unfortunately that money was long gone,( she can try to contact the retailer who sold the cards, but typically they are only returnable if they haven’t been redeemed, and the scammers invariably redeem the cards immediately) but at least she didnt get scammed for an additional $3000. It took almost a half hour to get her calmed down, her husband finally came and picked her up.
The woman was in her late 29"s, early 30’s, seemed reasonably intelligent. But these assholes call up, spout off some scary sounding threats to freak you out, then you’re no longer thinking straight. Why would the government want you to pay them in gift cards? Yet some people believe it in their panic.
Similar episode a couple of months ago. This time, an older woman (Late 50’s), buying $3500 worth of Sephora gift cards. I had also gone through the same questions and advice, she assured me she knew all about how scammers work and they really were for a wedding. But in this case she did pay for the cards and left. She returned 5 minutes later, saying they were on the phone with her asking for the numbers (she didnt give them). Again, the scammers were STILL ON THE PHONE! I told her to hang up on them. I kind of sighed and told her I tried to advise you, you assured me they were for a wedding. She said “that’s what they told me to tell you so you wouldn’t be suspicious!” . Since her cards hadn’t been redeemed I think she was able to get her money back, not sure because that goes through corporate. But it just goes to show that even when you actively TRY to stop someone from falling prey to a scam, it’s not always enough to overcome whatever fear got put into them. In her case, the scammers told her that her identity had been stolen, and the best thing to do would be to EMPTY her bank account as quickly as possible, hey, put it onto some gift cards that the hackers cant access, then once we get you all buttoned down we can return the money. This scammer pretended to be from her bank, IIRC.
So I personally have saved customers $6500 this year alone. Personally, I think all retailers should be trained on these potential scams, they are in the best position to help because the people being scammed are not thinking straight. It’s no skin off the retailers nose if a customer gets scammed, they are getting paid, but it’s just the right thing to do. Most of the gift card scams could be eliminated if the people selling the cards just asked a couple questions.