When a grandmother recently walked into the Best Buy in Redding, Calif. to buy four $1,000 gift cards for her granddaughter, store employee Marysa English was surprised by the amount — and immediately concerned.
When she asked what prompted the purchase, the woman had said she had recently received a call from her granddaughter saying she needed the money to get out of jail, which “immediately raised a red flag” for English, she later told KHSL.
But instead of ignoring her suspicions and ringing the customer up, English acted on them, convincing the woman that she shouldn’t make the purchase and should file a police report instead.
“‘Please don't buy it,’” English recalled telling the woman, who eventually listened and decided not to purchase the cards. “She was convinced her granddaughter was involved in some sort of scheme or scam.”
The Redding store’s general manager Aaron Prader praised English for her thinking to KHSL.
“I'm glad Marysa did what she did and started questioning it to find out if it was fraudulent or not," he told the station.
The scam, which often involves pretending to be a younger relative in need of money, has targeted people by insisting they buy gift cards and share the codes with the callers as a form of payment. Nor is it limited to Best Buy — according to the Federal Trade Commission — scammers have demanded Amazon, PayPal and iTunes gift cards as well, in addition to the usual money wiring services.
English said the best protection against such scams is to warn people ahead of time.
“I feel bad that she has been able to be manipulated like that,” she told the station. “I don't want to see that for anyone.”
The attempted scam of the grandmother in California might have been averted, but other victims have fallen prey to similar schemes across the country. A grandmother in Pennsylvania fell victim to a similar scam earlier this month when an unknown caller pretended to be her grandson in jail, WJAC reported. The caller told the 86-year-old woman to go to a store, buy three gift cards at Best Buy totaling $6,000 and call him with the card numbers and PIN codes.
She complied — but was later told by police that her grandson hadn’t been arrested or in contact with law enforcement at all. State police said they were investigating, according to WJAC.