An elderly woman was duped out of more than $1000 in an elaborate Telstra scam, and was at risk of losing $3000 more.
But she was saved by staff members at a Coles supermarket and post office, who warned her the calls she was receiving were not legitimate.
The pensioner from Balgal Beach in Queensland received a call on July 11 from somebody pretending to be from Telstra, and told her she had to spend thousands of dollars on iTunes gift cards.
The 80-year-old was unaware it was a scam and her daughter-in-law Kathleen Church told the Townsville Bulletin the pensioner felt threatened.
“[The caller] kept saying they were very, very dangerous people. Don’t tell anyone about this call,” she told the publication.
The caller sent a taxi to the elderly woman’s house to take her to a Woolworths supermarket a 30-minute drive away in Deeragun, where she was pressured into spending $1000 on iTunes vouchers.
She read the numbers on the voucher to the scammers and the next day she was targeted yet again.
The Townsville Bulletin reports she was told to spend $2000 on vouchers at Rollingstone Post Office and $1000 at Coles in Deeragun.
It was there that staff members warned her it was a scam, saving her from being thousands of dollars out of pocket after already spending $1300 on the first vouchers and the taxi ride.
“Thankfully our staff at the Rollingstone Post Office recognised the offer as a scam and could assist our customer,” an Australia Post spokesperson told Yahoo7.
“Our staff receive regular training and updates on the importance of vigilance in relation to scams and ways to help customers if they have any concerns.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has warned people to be on the lookout for scammers conning victims into buying iTunes gift cards.
In 2017, more than 1200 people lost nearly $540,000 to these types of scams.
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In the 2015-16 financial year, people reported a total loss of about $480,000 to iTunes gift card scams.
“Scammers are increasingly getting their victims to pay with iTunes gift cards as they can quickly on-sell them and pocket the money,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said in a statement.
“If someone asks you to pay for anything using an iTunes gift card, it’s a scam. There are never any circumstances where a legitimate business or government department will ask for payment this way.”
The ACCC said scammers pretending to be from Telstra asked victims to help them catch a ‘hacker’ trying to access their computer.
“They’ll use this scam story to get the victim to buy iTunes cards as a ‘trap’ for catching the hacker,” an ACCC statement said.
“Unfortunately the scammer will quickly get the serial numbers for those gift cards and sell them before the victim realises they’ve been duped.”
A Coles spokeswoman said the supermarket had seen an increase in gift card scams reported to Coles Customer Care. They included instances where customers were pressured into buying iTunes cards in bulk to pay fake debts or fines.
“We have introduced a notification at the checkout that activates after 10 gift card scans as a warning to customers’ bulk purchasing,” the spokeswoman said.
“Our team members have been trained to look for customers spending a significant amount of money on gift cards and if so to notify the store manager or ask the customer if they are aware of these scams.”
Queensland Police said they were not investigating the incident.