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Gift card scams on the rise, Westminster police warn

Westminster police are warning locals to be wary of a recent uptick in gift card scams.

“The Westminster Police Department has experienced a recent increase in the number of reported gift card scams/fraud,” according to a Wednesday news release from the department.

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In recent weeks, police have received more calls from people reporting scams, according to Lt. Jeffrey Schuster. He could not provide a specific number, but said it’s “becoming more prevalent.”

“In these types of scams the targeted victim receives a telephone call or an email from an individual demanding immediate payment for a delinquent account balance and instructs the victim to provide payment using a form of electronic technology,” the release states.

Schuster said he has known people to lose thousands of dollars from such scams.

“Call your local law enforcement right away," Schuster said in an interview. “Do not divulge any information to the caller.”

Scammers might ask for corporate gift cards, such as for iTunes, Green Dot, or Google Play, according to police. The scam typically includes “demands to satisfy outstanding tax bills, bail money for friends or family, debt collection, or lottery winnings,” the release reads.

“The caller will instruct the victim to respond to a retailer and purchase a designated amount of gift cards. The caller will give the victim instructions to provide information that will allow the caller to use the cards to make purchases,” according to the release.

Schuster has heard of people who received calls from individuals pretending to be from the Drug Enforcement Administration or other law enforcement agencies. He said the scammer will allege there’s an investigation underway or an arrest on the horizon and the victim has to send them gift cards in order to stop it. Another common lie is the victim’s grandchild is in prison and needs bail money, according to Schuster.

Police advise residents not to buy any cards or provide information if they receive this type of call, and recommend they try to get a call back number and name of the person calling them and contact law enforcement, the release states.

Victims can also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint, according to the release, but they should first call local police. Incidents may also be reported to the companies from which the gift card was bought.

  • Amazon: 1-888-280-4331
  • Google Play: 1-855-466-4438
  • iTunes: 1-800-275-2273, then press 6 and ask for the operator

To learn more about scams, contact Schuster at 410-848-4646.

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