My gullible aunt lost 25,000 dollars in a gift card scam : personalfinance


I’m sure you’ve all read some variation of this scam before but a few details made me want to run the story by the community. Someone called my elderly aunt from an out-of-state number and claimed to be the local police, that she was implicated in an embezzlement scheme, and that there was an outstanding warrant for her arrest. In order to demonstrate “good faith”, auntie would need to deposit her money with the police department in a secure location. It was a Saturday afternoon and the banks were closed, so naturally the next best thing for a legitimate police officer to ask is that she go buy Target gift cards at Lowe’s and call back with the numbers for each.

This is all textbook so far, but a few points perplex me beyond my relative’s lack of common sense. Somehow Lowe’s was perfectly fine with my aunt buying 23,500 dollars in the form of $500 gift cards. The clerk didn’t think to escalate things when a woman who was clearly distressed and weeping asked to buy a Toyota-fuckin-Corolla worth of gift cards from a store they weren’t even in. The company didn’t have any policy in place for this, and her bank (a major one) didn’t flag the attempt immediately or block the transaction. I don’t blame these people for my aunt being a dolt, but it just seems like there should have been a few safeguards in place. This type of social engineering scam is common enough that I would expect a modicum of scrutiny in this scenario.

As you can guess, the gift card numbers were relayed, the scammer gave a phony name, badge number, and case ID, and then went dark. While I’m only getting piecemeal updates, I can guess that the money is long gone. The real local police, her bank, Lowe’s, and the FBI/FTC have been contacted.

I surmise the prospects of recovering her money are pretty grim and auntie is exempted from fraud protection for withdrawing the money herself, but I wanted to run this by the community in case there is any recourse that hasn’t considered. Is there a point of sale purchase limit at large retailers like this? Would there be a cutoff where the buyer would be directed to set up a corporate account? Or is she utterly SOL?

My aunt is on social security and some parasitic shitfucker just stole half of her late husband’s life insurance payout that she needed just to subsist. As credulous as she is, she is a good person and I would like to find a way to recover her money if possible.



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