From The Tribune staff reports
TRUSSVILLE — An 87-year-old Trussville woman was the victim of an online scam, according to the Trussville Police Department.
The woman received Facebook and text messages from a woman she thought she knew. The woman told investigators the name on the Facebook account matched the name of a friend, so she thought she was communicating with someone she knew. The fake Facebook profile referenced Lagos, Nigeria, police said.
The woman told the victim she knew about a grant program available through the Lions Club International and that she could be eligible for money herself if she sent a down payment.
The victim purchased $1,050 in eBay gift cards from local stores and sent them to the person.
Although the victim contacted her bank, they will not be able to refund her money. Trussville Police Chief Eric Rush said it is extremely difficult for investigators to track down suspects in these types of cases.
“There is always a way to track them digitally but once we determine that it originated from outside of the United States it is very difficult to get cooperation from banks in other countries,” Rush said.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said gift cards are a common way scammers get money from victims. The commission said scammers, some of them also imposters, who might demand payment by gift card include:
- callers pretending to be from a utility company, telling you to pay your bill by gift card or they’ll cut off your power or water
- sellers on online auction sites who ask for gift cards to “buy” big items like cars, motorcycles, boats, RVs, tractors and electronics
- someone posing as a servicemember to get your sympathy, saying he has to sell something quickly before deployment and needs you to pay by gift card
- callers who say you’ve won a so-called prize, for a sweepstakes you probably never entered – but first, you have to use a gift card to pay fees or other charges
- someone buying something from you, probably online, who sends a check for more than the purchase price – and asks you to give them the difference on a gift card. (That check, by the way, will turn out to be fake.)