An elderly Illinois couple still has $2,500 in the bank thanks to an alert Walmart employee who thought something was amiss when the shoppers tried to transfer the funds to prepaid gift cards.
The Daily News Online reports that Attica police applauded the employee for his work in preventing the couple from falling victim to a weeks-long family emergency scam, more commonly referred to as the “grandparents scam.”
The employee became suspicious when the couple came into the store to purchase $2,500 in prepaid gift cards to send to a relative, Attica Chief of Police Dean Hendershott said.
Police say the couple were the targets of an ongoing scam targeting elderly residents, including one couple who lost $4,000 several weeks earlier.
Like most reiterations of the grandparents scam, the schemer calls the victim, posing as a grandchild or loved one who has been in an accident or was arrested in some far-off land. After providing relevant information, the caller then asks the recipient to purchase gift cards. After buying the gift cards, the targets are instructed to call the number back and read off the gift cards’ numbers and security codes.
However, when the latest targets visited the store, the “very alert and concerned” employee inquired about why the couple needed such expensive gift cards, police say.
He then assisted the couple in verifying the phone number they were supposed to call back. Turns out, it was listed in the national database as a scamming number, Hendershott said, noting that the couple was reimbursed, returned home, and reported the incident to the police.
The Walmart employee isn’t the first to prevent unsuspecting consumers being scammed.
In Feb. 2015, an alert Safeway employee saved a woman from losing $2,400 to a scam in which fraudsters called impersonating the IRS, notifying her of an outstanding tax bill. The woman was purchasing thousands of dollars in gift cards when the employee stepped in.
Back in September 2014, well-trained employees at a Safeway store in Maryland were able to stop a couple trying to get $4,000 worth of prepaid debit cards. When an employee asked the shoppers why they were putting so much money on the cards, the customers said they’d been contacted by IRS agents who claimed they had to pay thousands of dollars right away in order to stop an IRS investigation.
A similar situation took place in March 2012, when an alert Big Y clerk prevented a woman from falling from the grandparents scam. The local woman had showed up at the regional New England supermarket chain with the intention of using Western Union to wire a “large amount” of cash to one of these scammy callers.
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