A story about a telephone scam caught my eye on AZ Central. The story is about an all-too-prevalent scam: elderly people receive a phone call from someone claiming to be their grandchild and are told the grandchild needs bail money, so they are persuaded to give a credit card number over the phone. Of course the caller isn’t their grandchild, the caller is a scammer who uses the credit card information before they realize that they have been scammed.
This story had an unusual element to it, however. The scammers didn’t ask for a regular credit card. Instead, they asked for an iTunes gift card. After the scam worked the first time, the scammers came back for more the next day, but the victims’ daughter got wind of the scam and moved the gift card funds to her husband’s iTunes account before the scammers could get them.
The problem now, of course, is that the funds are in an iTunes account, for which the victims have no use. Apple won’t refund the account balance in cash, because they didn’t get the money that the victims paid for gift card, Walgreens did, and Walgreens bought it from a third party, not from Apple.
The other problem is that the scammers aren’t even in the United States, so even locating them, let alone getting anything from them, is probably impossible.
But wait, there’s an apparently easy (if imperfect) solution to this dilemma. I had never heard of this until a family member went to work for Giftcard Zen (a company based in Phoenix), but I now know that there is a thriving, and legal, resale market for unused gift cards. The victims in this case wouldn’t get all their money back because when you sell your unused gift card, you sell it as a discount, but they could probably get most of their money back by selling their iTunes gift card on the resale market.
The larger moral of the story here is: don’t give out valuable information over the phone unless you are certain you can trust the person on the other end of the phone, particularly if they initiated the call.
These scams are widespread, so be alert. If the victims in this story had heard about such scams, they might have at least paused long enough to think: why would a law enforcement officer be asking for a gift card to pay our grandson’s bail?
I have never received this particular variety of scam call, but I have received others. I’ll discuss them in future posts.
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