EPD Issues Warning Over Gift Card Scam

May 17, 2019

Police Blotter

A warning today from Everett PD

If you find an elderly family member or neighbor who is suddenly buying gift cards, that may be a sign they are being scammed. Here’s an alert put out by Everett Police today.

Over the past several months, local residents have reported an increase in scam calls where someone from the “government” (usually the IRS) calls unsuspecting victims to demand payment for an overdue account. The caller demands immediate payment with pre-paid gift cards or the victim will be arrested and jailed.

Last month, an officer was dispatched to Safeway in central Everett after the store manager refused to sell a 74 year-old woman gift cards. The woman told officers she received a call from someone identifying themselves as an IRS employee who claimed she had incorrectly filed 4 years of tax returns and now owed $75,000. The caller demanded the woman pay with Google Play gift cards “today” or she would be arrested and jailed. The woman withdrew $5,600 from her bank and went to Safeway where the store director noticed the abnormally large gift card purchase. The director was aware of this type of scam and refused to sell the gift cards. The director called 911 so the victim could report the incident.

“Most scammers start out nice but turn aggressive, threatening and rude. We don’t want residents to be victimized,” says Financial Crimes Sergeant Matt Mekelburg. “Remember, gift cards are for gifts and you can never pay a government debt with one.”

In another case last month, a victim received a call from a scammer and was told he was owed a $10,000 refund from the government. To get the money, the victim needed to pay a $1,500 transaction fee with Google Play gift cards. Over the next several weeks, the scammer convinced the victim to pay “additional fees” but each transaction increased the refund the victim would receive. In total, the victim payed $60,000 with Google Play gift cards.

The Everett Police Department and government organizations NEVER call individuals about refunds or overdue payment to demand gift cards. If this happens to you, call the non-emergency police dispatch number at 425-407-3999 so a report can be taken.

More information from the Federal Trade Commission ID theft program: www.identitytheft.gov & https://bit.ly/2PAuDdW

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