Altavista Police warn of new gift card scam

The Altavista Police Department is warning area citizens of a new scam being perpetrated involving eBay gift cards. The scammers are targeting especially (but not only) senior citizens.

“We have been getting a lot of complaints from people that are contacted via Facebook or email by people who are supposedly trying to sell a vehicle. The vehicle is at a huge discount, which should be a red flag,” reported APD Chief Tommy Merricks.

The messages include an official-looking eBay logo. The scammers ask their targets to pay for the vehicle using eBay gift cards. The would-be purchasers are asked to buy eBay gift cards and provide the supposed seller with the gift card numbers.

“No legitimate business will ask to be paid in gift cards,” Merricks observed. “They might take cash, credit card, or maybe check, but never eBay gift cards.” The chief added that it is better for people to make their online purchases through a trusted and legitimate system such as PayPal, where there is recourse in case of a fraudulent sale.

Another danger sign is when a seller asks customers to purchase outside of the website’s official sales avenues, such as an alleged eBay seller asking customers to pay outside of the eBay platform, thereby bypassing the safeguards that are in place to protect customers from such fraudulent schemes.

One such attempted scam incident was stopped thanks to the quick thinking of an Altavista business employee. The clerk noticed a customer buying a large quantity of eBay gift cards, and upon learning the reason, warned the customer that it was likely a scam, Merricks recounted.

“Someone came in [to the APD] yesterday. He had just lost $2,800. Another man came in yesterday who almost lost $800. In his case, we were able to help prevent it,” Merricks reported. Thankfully, the man checked with the police about the legitimacy of such a “bargain” sale, and the police were able to warn him away before his money was gone.

“The people who do these scams are normally located out of the country and are very hard to apprehend,” the police chief observed. Once the victim sends the gift card numbers, their money is gone.

“Come by Police Department; we’ll be glad to assist people in making sure if it’s valid or not,” Merricks said of such situations. The Altavista Police are here to serve and protect the members of the community and will gladly help make sure local citizens are not being scammed.

“The moral of the story is this: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Merricks concluded.