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Gift Card Scams

Back in May, we wrote about a scam in which people get a letter from someone claiming they need you to buy a gift card for their nephew. The writer said they were travelling and wanted you to buy the card for them and they would pay you back later.

And the scam is continuing to circulate — as proven by the fact SAM just got the same solicitation last week, with all the same wording but only one detail changed (it asked for a Gamestop rather than an Amazon gift card). We haven’t heard from anyone who fell for the scam, but one possible scenario is that they would then write back, ask you for the card number, then use it to buy products for themselves and not pay you back.

Even if someone claims to be a person you know and has some details right, exercise caution.

“Be aware that there is an abundance of information about you publicly available — your name, address, phone number, relatives’ names, etc.,” said Christina Cooley Howell, public affairs officer for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, which frequently hears about scams like this. “Scammers will look this up to convince you they are not scamming you.”

Think of the gift card scam scenario this way: If they could contact you and ask you to get a gift card, they could contact the business themselves and get a digital gift card, even if they were travelling. Just delete the email and don’t respond, or contact the person they claim to be by a different method than the reply button, such as calling them.

Another variation of the gift card scam that Howell hears about involves people getting calls claiming to be from law enforcement, telling them they are in trouble and need to buy a gift card to make a payment to avoid arrest.

“Do not make payments in the form of gift cards,” Howell said. “We don’t request cash payments or gift cards. We don’t request anything as payment in order to ‘dismiss’ a warrant for arrest. Name, phone numbers and addresses are all public record and anyone can find that information, including criminals trying to take your money. Criminals can make up officer names, badge numbers and even caller IDs to try to convince you to give them your money.”

If you get a call from allegedly from the sheriff’s office that sounds suspicious, hang up and call their non-emergency number at 336-727-2112. “Our telecommunicators will be able to assist you if an actual deputy was calling you about legitimate Sheriff’s Office business,” she said. You can call other law enforcement agencies the same way.


While we’re on the topic of gift cards, there’s finally an answer for what people who had gift cards to Cities Grill and Bar, which closed unexpectedly in January, can do with them. The cards can be redeemed at Johnny B’s Grillhouse, which recently opened at 2504 Somerset Center Drive in the Shoppes at Somerset shopping center off South Stratford Road.

As Journal food editor Michael Hastings recently reported, the restaurant is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 336-293-6009.

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Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101 

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