Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

July 22, 2013

BUSINESS: Scam Alert: Business owners and shoppers should be on the lookout for local credit card scams

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Fake gift cards are bad business — especially the kind that trick trusting Cherokee County residents into disclosing private financial information.

The Better Business Bureau of Central East Texas is cautioning local citizens to be on the lookout for postcards in the mail advertising credit card deals that seem too good to be true. A current scam specifically is targeting unsuspecting, vulnerable residents of the Jacksonville and Tyler areas, reports show.

A graphic illustration of a post card outlining this problem is being heavily spotlighted on social media by the Better Business Bureau.

“This postcard is circulating throughout our area,” officials announced in the graphic. “BBB reminds consumers not to provide financial information to someone who initiates contact without doing your homework.”

These $100 “gift card offers” allegedly can be redeemed at Walmart of Target. However, to gain access to the card, the customer is asked to provide a bank account number to pay a “processing fee.”

And ultimately? This gift card never arrives and money suddenly begins to be siphoned from the bank account.

Tracking the scam artists behind this problem has caused authorities some difficulty. Ultimately, the BBB is asking residents to stay safe by sticking to the moral, “don't give out personal or financial information to anyone you don't know.”

One East Texas resident notified authorities about the scam after she was unsuccessful in collecting her card about half a month ago. The woman called a listed number, “1-855-530-6886” to claim the prize.

But instead of receiving a card with store credit,  an unspecified amount of money disappeared from the woman's bank account, according to Mechele Agbayani Mills,  president of the East Texas Better Business Bureau.

“As of this morning the caller did not know how much money has been compromised in her bank account,” Mills said.

Yet another person who had a run-in with the perpetrators of this scam discussed it in detail on the online “Internet Ripoff Report.”

 “I received the postcard in the mail stating I'm eligible for the $100 Walmart gift card,” the customer wrote. “ … I was told there are no strings attached other than $6.95 to have it mailed to me. I told him I don't have any money on my card. He said that's okay, he will run it when there is money on it.”

The customer was told to answer “yes” to several automated questions, which he could not completely bring himself to do.

“I said 'no' to one recording, and this dude comes back on the phone upset with me for saying 'no' and now we have to start the recording all over again,” the customer said. “ I told him 'you guys are nuts.' He reminds me of how I want my gift card and all I have to do is be a smart customer and say yes to all the offers. So I play along and say yes to four offers.”

After awhile, the customer got tired of the repetition and hung up.

“A minute later an unknown number calls at 11 p.m.,” he said. “I ignore it while making a note to myself to crawl to my bank apologizing for being a fool and to please cancel my card and issue a new one.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also emphasizes Texas consumers stay vigilant so they can't be victimized.  Because there are a number of ways in which credit card numbers can be stolen, Abbott specifically recommends never giving one's credit card number over the phone unless you initiated the phone call.

“Legitimate companies will never call to 'verify' your credit card number,” Abbott writes.

Abbott also recommends consumers make a list of their credit cards, account numbers, and phone numbers of the card companies.

"Keep this in a safe place, separate from your cards," he advises. "If your purse or wallet is stolen, you can use this to notify your credit card companies."