Madison woman loses $11,500 to gift card scam

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – A woman loses thousands of dollars after losing her money in a prepaid scam. Kim Grove says her stack of Apple gift cards is $11,500.

“I kept them all,” Grove said. “When you think back and look at the whole thing, it’s quite obvious it was a dumb scam.”

A woman loses hundreds of dollars after losing her money in a prepaid scam. Kim Grove says her stack of Apple gift cards is $11,500.(WMTV)

She says it started when she received an email about a recent online purchase that she had ordered TV and video game equipment through Amazon. Grove says she hadn’t purchased anything like that and clicked the link in the email to file a complaint.

Shortly after, Grove says he received a phone call from someone claiming to be Amazon telling him that his account had been hacked and that the company would refund him $400.

According to Grove, the impostor had logged into an electronic banking website and entered his account information to receive the money.

“He goes, ‘Oh no, looks like there was a mistake. We just paid you back $4,000, not $400,” Grove recalled. “And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s not cool. That means I owe you $3,600.

After trying a few online options to send the money back, Grove learned that she could refund the overpayment by purchasing Apple gift cards.

She bought $500 worth of gift cards and sent him the corresponding information.

“Every time I did that, there was some kind of error like it wasn’t going through or it was blocked by their software,” Grove recalls. “I kept going back to the store and getting more and more of these gift cards to fix the problem.”

The Better Business Bureau says consumers lose an average of $700 on this scam compared to...
The Better Business Bureau reports that consumers lose an average of $700 in this scam, compared to an average loss of $169 for any other type of scam.(WMTV)

The prepaid scam

Grove is just one of many across the country who have lost hundreds of dollars to the prepaid card scam.

The Better Business Bureau reports that consumers lose an average of $700 in this scam, compared to an average loss of $169 for any other type of scam.

Tiffany Bernhardt Schultz, southwestern Wisconsin regional director for the Better Business Bureau, says consumers are losing a lot more money to these gift card scams.

“Scammers love that you can’t trace any form of payment to a gift card,” added Bernhardt Schultz. “As soon as you provide those numbers, it’s on.”

Once a consumer erases these numbers and provides them to a scammer, a scammer immediately has your money.

“At the end of the day, they want to get your money and it’s an easy way to get your money because it can’t be traced,” explained Bernhardt Schultz.

The BBB found that older victims lose the most money in a prepaid scam.

“It makes you stupid,” she admits. “I’m a professional, well-educated person and I’ve always fallen for it.”

IMPOSSIBLE TO TRACE

Because there’s no paper trail, Grant Co. Sheriff Nate Dreckman says it’s nearly impossible for his deputies to track down the crooks.

“It’s an extreme challenge for law enforcement,” Dreckman said. “People lost a lot of money.”

Over the past few months, Sheriff Dreckman said his department has investigated or received reports of nearly 30 cases involving a scam like this.

“It was all fake accounts, fake names, fake emails,” Dreckman said. “It was just a dead end.”

Another hurdle is that many of these scams originate from elsewhere in the country or even overseas, where local law enforcement has no jurisdiction.

“The best we can do is educate people,” Dreckman said. “If someone offers you something and wants you to pay in gift cards, it’s a scam.”

Authorities say the gift card scam works well because it's nearly impossible for the law...
Authorities say the gift card scam works well because it’s nearly impossible for law enforcement to track her down.(WMTV)

TACKLING THE EMOTIONS

Now back on her feet, Grove says losing all that money was a financial and emotional ordeal, something she’s still working to process months later.

“It makes you stupid,” she admits. “I’m a professional, well-educated person and I’ve always fallen for it.”

Although she knows that’s no excuse, Grove says that at that time she was very ill and was waiting for surgery, which leads her to believe that she was vulnerable and that she wasn’t. not in the right headspace.

“They make it seem so important and so vital that you’re dealing with it now,” Grove said. “It takes over and it’s the only thing you can focus on until you fix the problem.”

Law enforcement says this urgency is something they often hear from victims.

“It’s kind of scary how much influence these scam artists have over some people,” Dreckman said. “They just harass and harass and harass until these people finally give in.”

The BBB reports that other victims felt intense pressure.

“They don’t want you to have time to think and they don’t want you to have time to do your research because if you do they’re going to lose you,” Bernhardt Schultz said.

A scammer never wants you to wonder whether or not it is a scam.

“They want to do it now, which we see in scam after scam after scam,” Grove said. “In this case, they really conveyed urgency and emotional attachment.”

The Federal Trade Commission says Amazon is now the number one brand used for identity theft, recently...
The Federal Trade Commission says Amazon is now the number one brand used for identity theft, recently overtaking the Social Security Administration and the Publishers Clearing House.(WMTV)

CUSTOMIZE MAJOR BRANDS

According to data from the Better Business Bureau, hundreds of scam follow-up reports were filed in 2021 for scams involving Amazon impersonation.

The Federal Trade Commission says it’s now the most widely used brand for identity theft, recently overtaking the Social Security Administration and Publishers Clearing House.

“Amazon is a company you can trust,” Bernhardt Schultz said. “Scammers rely on you having an Amazon account.”

The BBB says consumers should always verify your Amazon account before getting worried about an email or phone call about an online order.

“If this fraudulent charge is not in your Amazon account, it’s a scam. You can go ahead and hang up or delete this email,” she added.

Here are the top 10 brands/organizations used for identity theft:

  1. Amazon
  2. Social Security Administration
  3. Publishers’ Clearinghouse
  4. PayPal
  5. Health Insurance
  6. Microsoft
  7. Apple
  8. walmart
  9. Cash Advance/America Advance
  10. Facebook

MAKE A SCAM TRACKER REPORT

If you or someone you know is the victim of a prepaid card or gift card scam, or any other type of scam, we encourage you to submit it to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker website. You can do it here.

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