By Raetta Holdman

(CBS4) – Douglas County law officers and Safeway stores have unveiled a new way to fight gift card fraud. Signs are now going up at the racks where gift cards are sold. The message they want to get out is gift cards are for gifts — and that businesses and government agencies do not take them for payment.

(credit: CBS)

The Douglas County Sheriff’s office says it has four or five cases of fraud involving gift card fraud, some with amounts ranging from $2,000 to $5,000.

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While scammers target everyone, older Coloradans (65+) tend to get hit the hardest. That’s because of the increasing pressure on that age group and the panic they may feel as they are told they face a warrant or a loved one out of state is in  trouble.

Because of their age, they may not be as aware of the warnings that are out digitally and that’s why those signs right at the point of purchase are so important.

Store employees have also been trained to help recognize when customers may about to become victims. David Montoya from Safeway Asset Protection said one scenario of concern is when there is someone on the phone with a customer as they are buying the gift card.

“We’ve had situations where our employee will ask ‘May I ask who is on the phone with you?’ and the customer will say ‘Well, they told me not to tell you,’ or ‘They’ve told me not to talk to you but I need to buy $2,000 worth of gift cards,” Montoya said. In some cases, stores are placing limits on the amount of money that can be put on a gift card in a single transaction.

The grocery chain and law agencies also say it’s really important to report the fraud so they can look for patterns and prosecute suspects. Experts say victims are often too embarrassed to report the fraud once they realize they’ve been victimized.

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Safeway is helping with that by giving potential victims the phone numbers of police departments. Victims can also file a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission here  – www.ftc.gov.

Raetta Holdman