Putting a ‘STOP’ to gift card scams in northern Arizona

YAVAPAI COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — Officials in northern Arizona want to make sure residents in the area don’t fall victim to gift card scams.

Brian Williams standing in front of a sign

© Source: YCSO

In partnership with the Chino Valley, Prescott, Prescott Valley and Tribal Police, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) personnel have begun distributing warning signs to businesses in the area that sell gift cards.


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YCSO says many residents, especially senior citizens, have recently become targets of scammers.

Here’s how the ploy works: a phone scammer calls people and creates “fake circumstances” by convincing victims they owe money for things like fines, utility bills, taxes, or even helping out a loved one in need. The victim then is told to buy a gift card (often iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon) to cover those costs.

Then, scammers quickly use those gift cards to obtain cash while the scam is in progress. If you buy a gift card and someone uses it, it can be difficult to get your money back.

Business owners around Arizona are now displaying the “stop scam” signs as a way to warn customers, especially the elderly. “Gift cards are for gifts, not payments,” warn sheriff’s officials. “Anyone who demands payment by gift card is always a scammer.”

If you are a northern Arizona business owner who sells gift cards and would like to participate in the program, please call Crime Prevention Coordinator Bryan Thomas at 928-777-7223.

In the ongoing effort to combat fraud, the Sheriff’s Office Fraud Intervention Team (FIT), has set up a help line for fraud victims. This is not to replace the need for a police report, but to provide advice and follow-up for victims of fraud in Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction. The number is 928-771-3299. Please leave a message when you call.

Examples of scams:

Someone might call you and claim to be from the IRS, collecting back taxes or fines.The caller might say he’s from “tech support,” asking for money to fix your computer.The caller might say she’s a family member with an emergency and needs money right now.A caller pretends to be from a utility company, telling you to pay your bill by gift card or they’ll cut off your power or waterSellers on online auction sites ask for gift cards to “buy” big items like cars, motorcycles, boats, RVs, tractors and electronicsSomeone poses as a service member to get your sympathy, saying he has to sell something quickly before deployment and needs you to pay by gift cardCallers say you’ve won a so-called prize for a sweepstakes you probably never entered, but say that first, you must use a gift card to pay fees or other chargesSomeone buying something from you, probably online, who sends a check for more than the purchase price – and asks you to give them the difference on a gift card. (That check, by the way, will turn out to be fake.)

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