Security guard prevents customer from falling prey to gift card scam as lawmakers call for more training

Consumer advocates say that retailers need to pitch in to protect consumers from fraud.

News 12 Staff

May 7, 2021, 2:47 AM

Updated 1,171 days ago


Consumer advocates say that retailers need to pitch in to protect consumers from fraud.
Kane In Your Corner reported last week about John and Claire Malecky, who lost more than $100,000 to a gift card scam.
Scammers pretending to be with the fraud department convinced the Maleckys that their bank accounts had been hacked and that they needed to withdraw their money, buy stacks of gift cards, and give them the codes on the back.
“There were days when I bought $14,000 worth of cards,” John Malecky recalled.
Kane In Your Corner spoke with some advocates who said that retailers should flag it if someone purchases multiple gift cards worth the maximum amount. Many News 12 viewers wrote in wondering why the fraud departments did not pick up on the extensive purchases like credit card companies do.
“It's on the companies that are involved in selling and processing these gift cards to take steps to make them as safe as possible,” says John Brevault, with the National Consumer Law Center.
Kane In Your Corner got a sense of what this might look like at a Target in Mount Kisco, New York this week.
Security guard Solangy Ramos intervened Monday night when an elderly man tried to buy thousands of dollars' worth of gift cards.
“I pulled him to the side. I wanted to ask him what’s the occasion for him buying them. Maybe it’s for a wedding, a baby shower. He didn’t want to discuss that,” Ramos says.
Ramos says that she told the man that her own grandmother had fallen for a gift card scam and that she didn’t want to see him make the same mistake.
“He said, ‘Thank you, thank you,’ and rushed out. It looked like he had a weight lifted off of him. You could tell he felt so much better,” Ramos says.
Ramos says that everyone at her store knows what to look out for.
“It’s a red flag. You’re buying multiple gift cards in large amounts of money. And it’s not a $50 gift card for a child’s birthday. It’s $500 on multiple,” she says.
Some tri-state lawmakers say that this needs to happen more. New Jersey Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds Jackson is one of the sponsors of a bill that would require better training of retail workers to prevent scams.
“We’re saying, ‘Let’s be proactive,’ right? So let’s stop it before it happens,” the assemblywoman says. “Let’s raise the bar and train employees."
But in the meantime, protection against scams is up to the consumer. Experts say there is one simple rule for consumers to follow – if someone asks to use a gift card to pay them, it is a scam.

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