ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A new national phone scam, that uses gift cards to steal money from victims (sometimes thousands), has authorities trying to crack down on it across the U.S.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office says phone scams, in general, are on the rise. With this latest scam, an imposter will call you pretending to be a federal DEA agent, and tell you you’re in some kind of legal trouble. They will then ask you to buy a gift card; details on that later in the story.
“If you don’t recognize the phone number, don’t answer the phone,” says Sgt. Matthew Bottone with the Sheriff’s Office.
Sgt. Bottone says this latest phone scam is more of the same. “You know, all the time we’re seeing some form of a scam,” he says.
In this case, the scam caller usually tells a victim a car they rented has been involved in a serious crime. They will then try and get a victim’s personal information, and tell them to avoid prosecution, they need to buy a gift card.
“No law enforcement agency is going to ask you for a gift card,” says Sgt. Bottone.
“They’re scaring people. It’s like the IRS scam, you get nervous, you get sweaty, you’re not thinking right,” says Melanie McGovern with the Better Business Bureau.
McGovern says that’s what those callers are hoping for: confusion. Then with gift card in hand the victim starts, “scratching off the number on the back, reading it over the phone, then there is no more contact, and that money is gone.”
And the big target in all this? “The most vulnerable are seniors. Because they’re not aware of what these gift cards are for,” she says.
Sgt. Bottone says if you get one of these calls, and you’re concerned, hang up and give the Sheriff a call. “And say ‘this is my name, do I have a warrant?’, they will look, and if the answer is no, they’re going to tell you no,” he says.
Sgt. Bottone said if you really are in trouble for something, expect a visit from law enforcement. Not a call asking for a gift card.