SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Shreveport police say they are already seeing an increase in phone calls from scammers as we head into the holiday season.
“We do see an increase in scams during the holiday season,” said SPD Sgt. Jared Woods, who works on the city’s financial crimes task force. “What we have been seeing a lot of lately is what I call gift card scams.”
That ‘s because gift cards, unlike debit or credit cards, allow the scammers to remain anonymous. Victims are asked to go to places like Walmart, Best Buy, or even Target to buy gift cards and load money onto them. Once the gift card is purchased, the scammer asks them for the information.
“Once they do that and give the gift card information over the phone to the person, at which time they receive what they were promised, once they do this, of course, the scammer disappears. They are never heard from again.”
Whether scammers reach their victims through the phone or email, Woods says they usually start off with a story.
“We are trying to educate the public before the money is sent off to stop it from happening. A person is contacted by phone, email, or even text message, and they are given a story. They either want something or they say you owe money or some other story that convinces you to send money off.”
Woods said the numbers from scammers are typically out of state and often speak with a foreign accent. Although these factors alone are not confirmation of a scam, they can be a red flag in combination with other details in a potential scam.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic pushing more consumers to shop online, Woods says awareness of these kinds of scams is more important than ever – especially because once the money is gone, it usually cannot be recovered.
“Unfortunately, when these scams are completed, we usually can’t get the money back. It’s usually gone because the gift cards are already spent in whatever state or country they were sent to and it’s gone.”
When in doubt, Woods suggests it helps to have a family member present. And if you think you might have been targeted by a scammer, you can call law enforcement for assistance.