Oh No, Fake Rich Grandma Is Defrauding Facebook Friends With Gift Card Scams Again

happy aged woman holding many american dollars
Woman Defrauded in "Rich Grandma" Gift Card ScamKhosrork - Getty Images
  • A woman reported being scammed out of $15,000 in an elaborate con.

  • It began when she was contacted by a "wealthy grandmother" offering to give her more than $1 million, provided she pay some taxes upfront.

  • As is common in these kinds of scams, the woman was made to purchase gift cards and provide all the info to the criminals over the phone.

We're going to tell you a little story about somebody who got scammed—and by what may seem like a very obvious scam. An "I'd never fall for that" kind of scam. So let's make sure we start this out by getting one thing straight: You, too, will one day get scammed, if you haven't already. And maybe it won't be an elaborate con, or falling prey to a "pay your overdue taxes in gift cards by phone" kind of scam. But it will happen to every one of us, because we all share one trait: thinking we're too clever to get conned.

As the Athens Banner-Herald reports, a Jackson County woman was apparently confident enough in her abilities to sniff out a scam that she bought into one hook, line, and sinker. Whether she had initial trepidations or not when she got a Facebook message telling her a wealthy grandmother wanted to give her $1.5 million and a new house, she was confident enough in her judgement to go all in, even when she was told she would have to pay $15,000 in taxes up front.

"During the coming weeks," the Banner-Herald reports, "...the Braselton woman went shopping for Foot Locker, Razer Gold and Apple gift cards." She was prompted to give the activation numbers and pictures of the cards to her "grandmother" via WhatsApp. She interacted with two men over the phone who likely were the scammers. "They identified themselves as the brother and lawyer of the grandma," the Banner-Herald notes, "...who had told the victim that she became rich by winning $343 million in a Powerball lottery."

The woman in question was sent several checks by the "rich grandmother," but they all bounced. And now, that Jackson County woman is out of money, and with little recourse for its return. Sheriff Janis Mangum said, "There is no hope" because the victim gave the scammers all the information they needed. "I feel like I’m beating a dead horse," the sheriff added regarding how often she warns people about these kind of scams. "I put this out all the time."

mans hands photographing credit card using smartphone
Dan Brownsword - Getty Images

In stories like these, our brains jump to blame the victim. "How stupid can you be?" we think. Why do we go there first, instead of being angry at those pulling the con? Get angrier at the folks who fall for the "wallet inspector" trick than the person who took the wallet? Not only is that mentality irrational, it can be downright harmful. As Michelle Singletary said in the Washington Post:

"We must remember that these people are victims and that our attitudes can keep them from reporting these crimes. If they’re too embarrassed or ashamed to admit what happened to them, it allows the scheme to continue or emboldens others to prey on people."

So why do our brains do this? Tell us to be mad at victims of scams, instead of the scammers? Because our brains can talk us into just about anything. Heck, for the people pulling these scams, their brains have talked them into whatever they have to think to justify stealing people's savings. "I gotta do what I gotta do to survive," "It's their fault for being so gullible," "You know, technically one way to interpret Marx's Debates on the Law on Thefts of Wood..." (Look, maybe they've got a Poli-Sci Masters, who can say? Not that you can pay down student loan debt with Foot Locker gift cards). Our brains can talk us into falling for cons, for committing cons, all while convincing us we'd never fall for one ourselves, and we're better than the people who do.

But just this once, maybe don't instantly decide you're smarter than the Jackson County woman in question. Maybe take the time you'd spend chuckling at a person losing money, and use that time to call up your dad, call up your grandma, and make sure they know they'd never be asked to pay the government in gift cards. Let them know that if they get a suspicious message on social media, to check with you, and you'll help them determine if it's real. And that if they do get scammed, they should know that they can come to you for help, and you won't make them feel worse about it.

But hey, why bother, right? You're too smart to get fooled, and the people around you are all too smart for that. It'll never happen to you. You're too smart.

So smart, in fact, that we've got a great investment opportunity, just for you.

You just have to pay some taxes upfront...

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