7 On Your Side: Fighting back against gift card scams

PARSIPPANY, New Jersey (WABC) -- New steps are being taken to fight back against an old con.

Scammers are calling people, urging them to buy up a bunch of gift cards to pay off a bill, the IRS or maybe fix a computer hack.

The scheme is nothing new but what companies are doing about it is.

"I was really scared, I was petrified," said retired teacher Jacqueline Washack, explaining how her fear led her to follow orders after a stranger left a message on her phone.

"This is a critical situation that is happening right now and we won't be able to do anything without your... I need you to be with me," the message on her voicemail explained.

She called him back and was conned. Her computer and bank account were both hacked. She was instructed to get in her car, drive to the Apple Store and purchase $3700 of Apple gift cards to fix the problem.

After giving the scammers the activation codes on the back of the gift cards, she says they lied to her, telling her the numbers weren't valid.

Jackie was again instructed to buy $3,000 more, this time in eBay gift cards, so she made that purchase too. But right afterward a Rite Aid manager stopped her in the parking lot.

"She followed.me out and said you're being scammed," Jackie said. "And then she got on the phone with the guy and he said who is this and she said who's this?"

Jackie said she then hung up and never provided the pin numbers, saving her from being scammed out of another $3,000.

Rite Aid is training its employees to spot and stop customers from getting scammed. The store's gift card kiosk is plastered with signs warning about purchasing cards and giving the numbers to strangers.

Even though store policy states right on the receipt that gift cards can't be returned, Rite Aid made an exception at 7 On Your Side's request.

We went back to the store with Jackie as she picked up her $3,000 cash.

"I love 7 On Your Side, you're very sweet and compassionate..you understand." said Jackie.

THE BIG TAKEAWAY

Rite Aid told us that despite the no gift cards return policy, if you feel you're a victim of a scam they will work with you on a case by case basis.

What really helped is that Jackie didn't scratch off and reveal the numbers on the Ebay cards yet. Hats off to the manager at the Rite Aid, who got suspicious and stopped the scam.

With those Apple cards the money was drained, gone within seconds of her sharing the codes. And since Jackie authorized the purchase in person, she hasn't been successful getting a refund from her bank.

Remember utilities, the IRS, banks and loan providers do not accept gift cards for payoff.

If you get one of these calls - hang up - and report it: Here's a link:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/paying-scammers-gift-cards

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