Sheriff’s Office warns of ‘gift card scam’

Published 2:40 pm Tuesday, July 22, 2014

By Stephanie Nelson
For The Advance

A “gift card scam” is making its way into Escambia County, and the sheriff’s office is warning residents to be vigilant of their banking information and mindful of the adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

Chief Deputy Mike Lambert said Tuesday that stolen credit card information is being used to purchase big box retailer gift cards, which are then resold for cash or new credit card numbers.

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“The way it works is someone will say they have a $750 gift card to a place like Home Depot or Wal-Mart or Lowes,” Lambert said. “They’ll ask for you to buy the gift card for say, $450. The scam then works two ways — one, you pay cash, and they’ve gotten cash money for something they purchased using a stolen credit card; and, two, you pay using a credit card and now they have your credit card information.”

Lambert said scammers purchased the credit card numbers from a variety of places such as “from rogue waitresses or waiters who lift your credit card number.”

Lambert said the department has received several inquires about the process.

“What we tell people is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he said. “Now I know there are legit things out there, and we don’t want to hurt anyone business or anyone doing fundraisers — like the football team selling discount cards — those are legitimate. But know you can’t get something for nothing.

“Identify theft is a long row to hoe and there is a long road to recovery,” he said. “So be mindful of your banking records, as well. These people usually go on Friday after 5 p.m. and purchase these gift cards with stolen credit card information.

“Most banks are closed until Monday and you don’t know you’ve been hit until you’re standing at the pump and your debit card won’t work. Watch your accounts online.”

Those who suspect they’ve been a victim of identity theft are asked to contact local law enforcement.