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Cyber Crooks Swindle Utahns By Posing As Their Boss In New Gift Card Scam

Mar 14, 2019, 8:16 PM | Updated: 8:16 pm

SANDY, Utah — Scam artists have found another way to use gift cards to swindle Utahns out of their money. They are doing it by posing as our employers.

Buying gifts for clients is not an out-of-the-ordinary request from Stephanie Jacobs’ boss.

“I’m in sales and so we spend money on our customers,” she explained. “We want to buy them gifts or make them, you know, feel loved. And, so that is originally what I thought this was all about.”

But in a recent, Jacobs’ boss wanted her to buy eight $100 iTunes gift cards, right away. So immediately, she needed to scratch the foil off the PIN codes and email him the numbers.

“Something, that should have made me think,” remarked Jacobs.

Stephanie Jacobs describes how a scam artist posed as her boss to persuade her to buy gift cards.

Stephanie Jacobs describes how a scam artist posed as her boss to persuade her to buy gift cards.

She was also told to keep this on the down low and emails only. No calls. He was stuck in meetings all day. Not until she got to the supermarket did reality hit.

“They had a big stack (of gift cards), so I grabbed a number. Cool! I’ll do this really fast,” Jacobs said. “But, when I got to the register, they said, ‘We can only sell you five per day, per person.’”

The reason, said the cashiers, was scam after scam after scam involving gift cards.

“And that’s when it kind of tickled my brain,” Jacobs remembered. And, I was like scams, hmmm, interesting.”

In many cases, scammers will demand $100 Google Play or Apple iTunes gift cards.

In many cases, scammers will demand $100 Google Play or Apple iTunes gift cards.

Jacobs bought up to the five card limit, but instead of trying to buy three more at another store, she called her office.

Sure enough, it was a scam. Someone impersonated her boss.

“So, I look at the email address and realized it wasn’t a company address. I asked one of the women there (Jacobs’ workplace) if he has another email address that he uses on a regular basis. And she said, ‘No, I’m not finding one,’” Jacobs’ explained. “I should have looked at the email address to begin with.”

Now, Stephanie did NOT go to Best Buy to buy those gift cards. But, because the retailer has stepped up its fight against gift card fraud, we asked them for red flags.

“So, anyone with a high sense of urgency. There’s a high amount of pressure to purchase the gift card immediately,” explained Kevin Fry, store manager at the Best Buy in Sandy, about one red flag.

At its gift cards kiosks, Best Buy has this fact scheet warning customers of gift card scams.

At its gift cards kiosks, Best Buy has this fact sheet warning customers of gift card scams.

Another red flag is the amount of gift cards a customer is looking to buy, both in number and worth.

“If the customer immediately asks what’s the highest dollar amount that they’re able to buy. ‘I’d like to buy the max amount available.’ ‘What’s the maximum amount we can put on each card that we’re buying?” Fry gave as examples.

Those sort of questions and behaviors prompt employees to ask questions of their own.

“Just having a healthy level of curiosity with the customer in regards to what they’re buying gift cards for,” explained Fry. “What is it for? Is it for a birthday gift? Or, is it a celebration? If there’s some hesitation around the customer, that’s when we do slow down and just say, ‘Is there anything we can help you with?’”

Best Buy store manager Kevin Fry explains red flags that his employees use to spot potential victims.

Best Buy store manager Kevin Fry explains red flags that his employees use to spot potential victims.

At this Best Buy’s gift card kiosk, there’s a fact sheet posted the employees will also go over with customers.

It includes other flags like, “Is someone calling claiming to be a family member in trouble? Are you being asked to purchase large sums of gift cards? Are you being pressured to buy gift cards to pay your taxes?” Fry says it is really important for people to slow down and validate that the business, government agency or person requesting you to buy gift cards is legitimate.

“Anyone who contacts you via email or phone and requests gift card information and those PINs, if you provide that to them – your money is lost,” Fry explained. “It’s unrecovable.”

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Cyber Crooks Swindle Utahns By Posing As Their Boss In New Gift Card Scam