Grandma’s Close Call at Grocery Store Reveals a Little Known Gift Card Scam That’s On the Rise

Kroger grocery store cashier Shelly Yost wasn’t going to let an elderly woman get scammed.

When the grandmother approached her with over $2,000 in iTunes gift cards, Yost immediately became suspicious.

According to WTOL, Yost inquired as to why the elderly woman was purchasing so many gift cards, to which the woman responded that her granddaughter was in trouble. Apparently, someone had called the elderly woman and told her that her granddaughter was in jail and injured.

The woman was told that in order to get her granddaughter out, she must purchase the gift cards and give them to the “police.” Yost describes the woman’s demeanor:

“She was so worried and so scared.”

Yost, pictured below, recognized that this was a ploy—that someone was taking advantage of this elderly woman. She told the woman that she was being scammed, but the woman refused to believe her.

Image Credit: Screenshot/WTOL

Thinking on her feet, Yost stalled the woman. She tells WTOL:

“I asked her if she would please wait and let me call the Sylvania police so they could tell her that they would never accept gift cards as payment for somebody in jail. I didn’t want her to go somewhere else.”

When police arrived, they confirmed that the elderly woman was indeed being scammed, even calling her family to ensure that her granddaughter was okay.

Yost may have stopped this woman from being scammed out of thousands of dollars, but some elderly individuals are not so lucky. According to WQAD, elderly individuals are being victimized by gift cards scammers at an increasingly alarming rate.

Eighty-five-year-old Diane Van Crey was scammed out of $2,500 after she received a call from her “grandson” telling her that he was in jail and needed money — in the form of iTunes gift cards, like the ones pictured below. She immediately complied, only to realize that her grandson was in fact not in jail and that she had been extorted.

Image Credit: Screenshot/WTOL

WQAD further explains why scammers are focusing on iTunes gift cards:

“According to the Federal Trade Commission they’re popular, easy to get, and virtually untraceable. Once the scammer asks for the 16-digit code on the back, they sell the cards on the black market at a discount.”

The FCC believes that the scammers are getting twenty cents on the dollar for each gift card.

Yost says that she and her colleagues at Kroger have been warned to look out for scams like these.

She doesn’t believe that her interaction with the elderly woman, who she saved from being extorted, was going above and beyond, though. Yost tells WTOL:

“She was vulnerable and someone was taking advantage of that and I couldn’t feel okay with myself just saying, ‘I’m doing my job and that’s it.'”

Those who think they may have been victimized by an iTunes gift card scam should contact Apple support at 1-800-275-2273 and report what happened to the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant.

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