Kennewick Police: How to protect yourself from gift card scams

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KENNEWICK, Wash. — Kennewick Police Department is warning residents of an ongoing phone scam that targets elderly and vulnerable individuals, according to a KPD Facebook post. KPD said they’ve noticed a trend where a scammer will call a resident and sound very convincing using a made-up story that is usually “emotionally driven to take advantage of the victim.”

Fabricated stories scammers will tell residents is that the only way to avoid arrest is to pay a debt, or they need to help a family member who has been in an accident or was arrested, said KPD on Facebook.

AARP said, that scammers often pose as a representative from the IRS, Social Security Administration or even Amazon or Apple to try and gain your trust.

“The same holds if you get an urgent call from a grandchild in distress, or if someone you’ve gotten close to online suddenly seeks a loan. An ask for money via gift card means you’re dealing with a crook, not a loved one.” – AARP

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Scammers then try and convince the victim that they have to pay money ranging anywhere from $10 even thousands of dollars, by using a gift card. “Sometimes, the scammer even tells the resident not to tell anyone what the gift cards are for. Once the gift cards are obtained, the scammer will make the resident read off the gift card numbers,” according to KPD.

“If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” -Kennewick Police Department

Officers said in some instances a scammer would promise a sizeable monetary return if the victim paid the first deposit.

KDP said it’s important to share this information with your family and friends and provided a list of essential tips to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Gift cards cannot be used to pay for legal fees or bail.
  • Gift cards cannot be used to pay for a medical emergency response/treatment.
  • Gift cards cannot be used to pay for taxes.
  • Do not share gift card numbers with anyone.
  • Trust your instincts.

To learn more about different types of scams and what to do if you are a victim visit the Federal Trade Commission or AARP.

AARP said you can help others avoid becoming scam victims by reporting them. One of the ways you can report a scam is through the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline. According to AARP, this information from their helpline is shared with the Federal Trade Commission, and you can also use AARP Scam-Tracking Map to warn people in your community.