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If Asked For Gift Cards, It’s Probably A Scam

Have you ever been contacted by a “friend” on social media and ignored that small voice warning you not to respond, or at least to question whether it was really your friend trying to contact you?

Have you found yourself communicating online with someone who asks you to buy gift cards to help them? If so, these are important red flags for you to avoid becoming a crime victim.
I want to tell you about two fraud cases that our sheriff’s detectives are investigating.
Recently, a Volusia County resident filed a complaint with the Sheriff’s Office after realizing he fell for an online scam that involved his Facebook account.

Here’s how it happened: The victim told us he received a text message from a friend whose Facebook account had been hacked and under the control of someone unknown, but the victim didn’t know that until later. Our victim received a message from his friend suggesting he could receive a $150,000 grant if he texted an organization at a certain phone number.

The victim wound up texting with an individual, never talking via phone, who said he was entitled to $150,000. The victim would have to send $600 in Apple gift cards to pay for shipping. The victim complied, purchasing two gift cards and then texting the activation codes for the gift cards.
After our victim did so, the suspect told him to send $8,500 more to receive the gift. Fortunately, that’s when our victim realized it was a scam and called us.

In a second recent incident, the Sheriff’s Office was contacted by another county resident who said she had been communicating with a man through the app Whats-App for about three months. The victim reported that the man asked her to help him —by purchasing Apple gift cards—to re-trieve a jewelry box that was stuck in Paris.
The suspect, who told her he is a surgeon and would reimburse her, couldn’t pay for the box because the storage facility “was being renovated.” The victim said she had purchased more than $3,000 in gift cards and gave him the activation codes, allowing him to get the money. When she

told a family member, he told her to immediately call law enforcement. Thankfully, she did.
These are just a couple of heinous situations in which opportunists have taken advantage of people in our community. In each case, the victims lost money after being instructed to purchase gift cards.
If you know someone who might be susceptible to this type of crime, please talk with them. Remind them that anytime someone calls, texts, or e-mails them and asks for money, especially using gift cards, it’s very likely a scam and can cost victims thousands of dollars.
You can learn more about protecting yourself against scams with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Scams At A Glance—an outreach program with information about common and emerging scams. You can avoid becoming a fraud victim, but you must know what to look for. As a reminder, here are signs of common scams:

  • Unsolicited calls or emails;
  • High-pressure tactics or
    too-good-to-be-true offers;
  • Threats of loss if immediate
    action is not taken; and
  • Requests for immediate payment
    by wire transfer, credit, prepaid
    debit, or gift cards.

To view recent Consumer Alerts, visit My Alert To report fraud or file a complaint, visit MyFloridaLe or call 1(866) 9NO-SCAM.
If you become a fraud victim, call the Sheriff’s Office at 386.248.1777 of 911 in an emergency. We’re here to help.

Stay smart and stay safe,
Sheriff Chitwood