OCEANSIDE, Calif. — A gift card scam is targeting senior citizens in San Diego county during the holidays. One Oceanside woman was taken for $119,000.
It all started with a pop-up computer warning screen on Holly Kay’s computer, saying her computer had been hacked. The 68-year-old called the number on the screen, which indicated it was a phone number for Microsoft support.
A man calling himself “Mark” answered the phone. Turns out, he was not with Microsoft. Instead, he was a con man.
He told Kay to log on to a legitimate web site called helpme.net, which allows third parties remote access to a computer. He also said he needed to secure her Chase bank account.
The scammer then convinced Kay to use her credit card to purchase $119,000 worth of gift cards at local department stores.
“He was saying it's the bank's money and it was all going to get adjusted back in and my savings were safe,” said Kay.
Most of the gift cards where purchased at Macys stores in Carlsbad and Escondido; the rest from Target and Nordstrom’s.
Kay was suspicious but thought she was helping to catch a thief and securing her life savings.
“At one point I remember saying to them, starting to cry, ‘If you're a scammer’... And they said, ‘We told you, Holly, what we're trying to do here is for your security,’” Kay said.
The scammers were able to cash the gift cards after convincing Kay to read off the numbers on the back of the cards.
Oceanside police Sgt. John McKean said consumers need to watch out for strangers on the phone asking you to purchase any gift card.
“If they tell you, you need to get Google gift cards, or any type of gift card from any store, that's a red flag. Shut it off, hang up the phone, and call your local police department and report it,” said Sgt. McKean.
The detective discovered Kay's gift card numbers may have been posted on the dark web and then used for purchases in New York, Washington State, Oregon and California.
He said people need to watch out for vulnerable targets of scams.
“Contact everybody you know that you believe is vulnerable and explain these scams to them, so it doesn't happen to somebody that you know,” he said.
Chase bank emailed News 8 the following statement, indicating the victim is going to get reimbursed for lost funds:
“We have restored all of the lost funds to Ms. Kay’s account. Please caution viewers to never provide their financial information or their computer information to any inbound caller. To make sure you’re talking to an actual representative of your bank, make the call personally to the phone number provided on the back of your credit card or debit card or on your account statement.”