An elderly woman has been the latest victim of a Woolworths gift card scam after she received a phone call from scammers posing as the supermarket.
The victim’s son shared the disturbing ordeal in a post on the Woolworths Facebook page, asking the supermarket to shed some light on the situation.
“My elderly mother was scammed yesterday through a phone call and made to go into one of your stores and buy two $500 gift cards over the front counter,” wrote the distraught son of the victim.
“When I took her back [to] the store I was told by the manager that the cards were already empty and there was nothing he could do,” he continued.
When the man asked the Woolworths manager whether there were procedures in place for situations like this, the manager confirmed that the staffer had not followed the correct procedures when selling the woman the $500 gift cards.
Therefore, nothing could be done.
“This needs to be readdressed so this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” wrote the disappointed man, before asking Woolworths to help clarify the situation.
Woolworths would ‘never wish this upon anyone’
Woolworths quickly responded to the alarming post, confirming they have seen a rise in scams recently and encouraging everyone to be aware they would never call customers to request payment.
“We'd never wish this upon anyone and we're sorry that your mother was a victim of this,” wrote a representative from Woolworths.
"We’ve seen a recent increase in reports of scammers claiming to work for government agencies such as the police, who ask people to buy large amounts of Woolworths Gift Cards to pay fines."
The representative went on to say that government agencies will never request Woolworths gift cards as a form of payment.
“We will never call you to request a payment or ask for your personal or financial information including passwords, credit card details or account information,” added Woolworths.
Woolworths urged customers who receive calls that they suspect are not legitimate to hang up immediately and report the phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, Woolworths suggested customers visit their Scam Alert page to equip themselves with information to stay safe from scams.
“At Woolworths, we like our customers to be equipped with information and to be aware of what to look for and the difference between genuine communication we may send you vs a scam,” reads the Woolworths Scam Alerts page.
On the Scam Alert page, Woolworths provides examples of current scams targeting customers. One such scam includes a ‘phishing’ email that is designed to lure customers to click a link by offering them a $500 Woolworths gift card.
Other trending scams include SMS scams that attempt to lure customers to click links to win prizes and social media scams that target users by asking them to comment, share and like fake posts to steal personal information.
Scams on the rise: Aussies lose over $192 million in 2021
Scams such as this are on the rise, as scammers are capitalising on the Covid-19 pandemic to target vulnerable people.
According to Scamwatch, which is run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Australians have lost $192,683,367 to scams so far in 2021.
The data, which is based on 191,991 reports of online scams in 2021, revealed that scam reports jumped by almost 32 per cent from April to June in 2021.
Phone scams were the biggest offenders, costing Aussies over $58 million, followed by internet, social networking, email, mobile apps, in-person, text message and mail scams.
Over 65s were the most vulnerable to scams, losing almost $45 million, while Aussies aged 45-54 lost over $33 million to-date.
“Scammers are increasingly taking advantage of the financial difficulties and uncertainty generated from the Covid-19 pandemic to trick unsuspecting Australians,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.
“If you’re not sure whether a call is legitimate, hang up and call the relevant organisation directly by finding the details through an independent search,” said Ms Rickard.
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