Gift card scams: organization workshop of the canton of Muhlenberg

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The Muhlenberg Township Police Department is hosting a pair of workshops on Thursday as part of the township’s efforts to combat phone and computer gift card scams that prey on older residents.

The Elder Gift Card Fraud Workshop is a response to a widespread scam that affects many victims, especially seniors and requires significant law enforcement resources to investigate, Sgt. said Andrew Swoyer.

“No matter what we know about it, sometimes we fall for it because the scams are getting more and more elaborate,” he said.

It’s such a problem for Muhlenberg police that township commissioners recently passed an ordinance regarding the purchase of “third-party gift cards/prepaid cards” at retail locations in the township. The order requires retailers to report gift card purchases of $400 or more to police.

The measure is intended to encourage retailers to report such purchases and alert the police so they can intervene if they sense someone is being caught in a scammer’s net, Swoyer said.

Typically, gift card scammers ask their victims to pay for something by putting money on a gift card such as a Google Play or iTunes card. Victims are asked to provide the numbers on the back of the card to the caller, which is equivalent to wire money.

Recently, state police reported that a Rockland Township woman lost nearly $115,000 in a gift card scam after she received a false alert on her computer telling her she should call a so-called technician because his computer profile had been used by drug traffickers.

She repeatedly paid the perpetrators by buying gift cards, investigators said.

Muhlenberg’s order requires retailers to record the buyer’s name, date of birth and address, obtained from a valid driver’s license or other legal form of identification. The information is to be provided to the police department.

Police representatives will discuss the order and provide advice on how to recognize the scam, stop it and where to report it if a suspected scam has taken place.

Two sessions are scheduled for Thursday, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m., at the township building, 210 George Street. Some retailers will participate, Swoyer said.

Complimentary refreshments will be provided.

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