Scams occur every day and, while the circumstances may differ nearly all schemes have common threads that indicate you are about to be scammed. Recently, a retired couple in Scottsdale, Ariz., had a close encounter with a scam that displayed five red flags.
According to KPNX-TV in Phoenix, the retirees came very close to losing $3,000. They didn’t, thanks to an alert CVS employee.
Asked to confirm a large order
The couple’s ordeal began when they received a call from someone claiming they worked for Walmart. The caller asked them to confirm a $3,000 order.
Naturally, the couple was shocked since they did not order anything that expensive from Walmart. The scammer now had their full attention.
But one must ask – why would someone at Walmart question a purchase, just because of the amount? This telltale sign has appeared in other scams, including robocalls claiming to be from Amazon questioning a large order. This is the first sign that a scam is beginning.
Connecting two unconnected entities
What happened next with the Scottsdale couple is the second sign. The Walmart employee said he could connect the couple with the fraud department at their bank.
Again, this is highly unusual. A legitimate employee might urge a potential victim to make that contact themself but would not personally intervene.
In this particular case, suspicion should have been further aroused when the bank fraud department didn’t come on the line but rather someone claiming to be a Scottsdale police officer.
Asked to help police solve a crime
The fake police officer attempted to build credibility by giving a name and badge number, both fictitious. He then told the frightened couple that there was a criminal working at their bank that had sold their information to a scammer.
The fake officer then told the couple he needed their help in catching the crook. But police departments never enlist the crime-fighting assistance of civilians. Red flag number three.
The scammer stays on the line
In the case of the Scottsdale couple, the scammer instructed them to go to their bank and withdraw $3,000 before their account was frozen. All that time, the scammer stayed on the line, even during the drive to the bank.
That’s a common practice, especially during an elaborate scam. The scammer can’t risk breaking contact with the target. Not only could he lose them, but they might also have a chance to think more rationally if they called a friend or family member.
Told to buy gift cards
The Scottsdale couple was instructed to take the $3,000 in cash and purchase $3,000 worth of gift cards. When they questioned it, the fake police officer frightened them even more by saying the scammers knew their address and they would likely be robbed.
Now completely scared, the couple went to a nearby CVS and began gathering up gift cards. They had the scammer on speaker and when an alert employee happened to walk by and heard the instructions, she knew immediately what was happening.
"She grabs the phone out of my hand and she says you are a scammer!" Francie Hidalgos told the station.
The couple said the CVS employee broke the scammer’s spell over them. Once the employee hung up on the scammer they said they realized that it was all an elaborate scheme.
If people know the signs to look for, that realization comes a lot sooner.